Garner v. Louisiana, 368 U.S. 157 (1961)
Under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, a state cannot apply its criminal statutes on disturbing the peace to non-violent protestors staging a sit-in to express opposition to segregation by race.
U.S. Supreme CourtGarner v. Louisiana, 368 U.S. 157 (1961)
Garner v. Louisiana
Argued October 18-19, 1961
Decided December 11, 1961*
368 U.S. 157
In Louisiana places of business catering to both white and Negro patrons, petitioners, who are Negroes, took seats at lunch counters where only white persons customarily were served, and they remained quietly in their seats after being told that they could not be served there. They made no speeches, carried no placards, and did nothing else to attract attention to themselves except to sit at the lunch counters. They were not asked to leave by the proprietors or their agents, but they were asked to leave by police officers. Upon failing to do so, they were arrested and charged with "disturbing the peace." They were convicted in a state court under a state statute which defines "disturbing the peace" as the doing of specified violent, boisterous or disruptive acts and "any other act in such a manner as to unreasonably disturb or alarm the public." They were denied relief by the State Supreme Court. The records contained no evidence to support a finding that petitioners had disturbed the peace, either by outwardly boisterous conduct or by passive conduct likely to cause a public disturbance.
(a) There being nothing in the record to indicate that the trial judge took judicial notice of anything, these convictions cannot be sustained on the theory that he took judicial notice of the general situation, including the local custom of racial segregation in eating places, and concluded that petitioners' presence at the lunch counters might cause a disturbance which it was the duty of the police to prevent. P. 368 U. S. 173.
(b) In the circumstances of these cases, merely sitting peacefully in places where custom decreed that petitioners should not sit was not evidence of any crime, and it cannot be so considered either by the police or by the courts. P. 368 U. S. 174.