Reading Room Document
Federal Authority to Cope with Possible Armed Clash Between Local Police Forces and Negro Demonstrators
This opinion discussed the federal government’s power to address “a tense racial situation in Birmingham, Alabama” resulting from “claimed racial inequality” and “widespread demonstrations in various parts of the South, particularly aimed at racial segregation in public restaurants.” The opinion explained that the federal government might be able to seek injunctive relief from the courts to address police force against protestors, even without specific statutory authorization. The opinion also advised that police offices might be prosecuted if their “real purpose was to deprive Negro demonstrators of their Fourteenth Amendment rights to freedom of assembly,” although it noted that prosecution may not be effective.
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