MIA: History: ETOL: Document: Education for Socialist Bulletin: Struggles Against Fascism at the End of World War II No Victory for Nazis - 3.
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—Socialist Workers Party [US] Education for Socialist Bulletins—
Struggles Against Fascism at the End of World War II
Section Three: Protests Against the American Nazi Party
No Victory for Nazis
By Joseph Hansen reprinted from the March 6, 1961, issue of the Militant
On February 14 the Appellate Division in a 4-to-1 decision handed down a verdict in New York that was interpreted by the capitalist press as a victory for George Lincoln Rockwell, head of the swastika-wearing “American Nazis” party. Actually the grounds of the decision favored Rockwell’s opponents, the defenders of civil liberties and democratic rights in America.
Last summer Rockwell applied for a permit to hold a rally in New York’s Union Square on July 4. It was denied by Commissioner Newbold Morris on the ground that a riot would result.
The American Civil Liberties Union took up the case and carried it to State Supreme Court Justice Henry Epstein. He upheld the commissioner.
Justice Charles D. Breitel voiced the majority opinion of the Appellate Division in upsetting Epstein’s ruling. Breitel held that it was unconstitutional to deny any minority the right to voice its opinion.
“The unpopularity of views,” said Justice Breitel, “their shocking quality, their obnoxiousness, and even their alarming impact are not enough. Otherwise the preacher of any strange doctrine could be stopped; the antiracist himself could be suppressed, if he undertakes to speak in ‘restricted’ areas; and one who asks that public schools be opened indiscriminately could be lawfully suppressed, if only he chose to speak where persuasion is needed most.”
Fear of a “riot” was the Wagner administration’s excuse for denying Rockwell his democratic rights. They pointed to the fact that many New York workers were preparing to appear at Union Square to protest Rockwell’s views.
But the organization that initiated the protest movement did not deny Rockwell’s democratic right to hold the obnoxious rally. On the contrary, they recognized the right.
This was the stand taken by the Committee to Protest Racist Defamation, headed by the well-known civil-rights attorney Conrad J. Lynn, which sought a permit from the city authorities to hold a protest meeting in Union Square on July 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., preceding the 3 p.m. Nazi rally. The Militant backed this position when it supported the appeal for a big turnout at the protest meeting.
The city’s denial of a permit to Rockwell set a dangerous precedent which, unless it is upset by the courts, will most certainly be used at a future time against organizations holding views diametrically opposed to those of the Nazis.
When Rockwell learned of the ruling by the Appellate Division, he immediately wired Commissioner Morris a request to hold rally in Union Square at 10 am May 1. He told the press that he had 50 or 60 “troopers” in training at Arlington, Va. for the rally “and we should have them in top condition.”
When asked what he intended to speak about, he answered, “The race issue and anti-Communism . . . the overwhelming Jewish participation in Communism.” He added that he was scheduling the rally for 10 a.m. “so that all these little Jews who try to meet ahead of us will have to get up early.”
It is doubtful that Rockwell will get a permit for a rally in Union Square by May I, since the city is now appealing to the State Court of Appeals. However, the ACLU is prepared to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
If the ACLU succeeds in finally winning and Rockwell ultimately gets a permit to appear in Union Square, there is no doubt many thousands of New Yorkers will be down real early to exercise their own democratic right to protest Rockwell’s provocative efforts to convert Hitler into an example for America to follow.