398 U.S. 916 (1970)

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U.S. Supreme Court

STOTLAND v. PENNSYLVANIA , 398 U.S. 916 (1970)

398 U.S. 916

Janet STOTLAND et al.
Commonwealth of PENNSYLVANIA.
No. 1267.

May 25, 1970.


The appeal is dismissed for want of a substantial federal question.

Mr. Justice BRENNAN took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, dissenting.

In August 1967, the City Council of Philadelphia passed an ordinance authorizing the mayor to declare a state of emergency in the city, 'if he finds that the City or any part thereof is suffering or is in imminent danger of suffering civil disturbance, disorder, riot or other occurrence which will seriously endanger the health, safety and property of the citizens.' When a state of emergency is declared, the mayor is authorized to 'prohibit or limit the number of persons who may gather or congregate ... in any outdoor place, except persons who are awaiting transportation, engaging in recreational activities at a usual and customary place, or peaceably entering or leaving buildings.' The ordinance provides that the state of emergency shall exist 'not in

Page 398 U.S. 916 , 917

excess of two weeks,' but that it may be 'extended for additional periods of two weeks.' There are no provisions for review of the mayor's decision to declare a state of emergency.

On April 4, 1968, the Reverend Martin Luther King., Jr., was assassinated. On April 5, 1968, at 9 p.m., the mayor proclaimed a limited state of emergency, effective until 6 a.m. on April 10, 1968, 'unless further extended,' and prohibited groups of 12 or more from gathering or congregating in any outdoor place, except in those situations authorized by the ordinance. The proclamation contained no specific factual findings to support the conclusion that a threat of 'civil disturbance,' 'disorder,' or 'riot' existed. The courts below, however, found that the proclamation was supported by various scattered acts of disorder occurring in the City of Philadelphia between the assassination and the proclamation, such as window breaking, damage to automobiles, false alarms of fire, and jostling of pedestrians, some of which occurred incident to demonstrations. There had been disorders in other cities after the assassination.

Appellants were arrested for peaceful, nonviolent participation in outdoor gatherings of 12 or more persons in violation of the proclamation. Three separate gatherings were involved.

1. Several weeks prior to the issuance of the proclamation, the Philadelphia Committee for Non-Violent Action made plans to protest the recommissioning of a battleship, which as to take place on April 6, 1968. A group of approximately 100 gathered at a park near the site of the recommissioning on April 6, planted a tree, and then sat around the tree holding hands and singing. A permit for this demonstration had been issued by the park commission. There were some speakers, but none of them advocated violence. There was no threat of hostility between the demonstrators and any spectators. [398 U.S. 916 , 918]

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