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Grayned v. City of Rockford

Who Made The Noise?

At this point, witnesses disagree about what happened. Demonstrators and their supporters claimed that the demonstrators remained quiet and orderly at all times. They admitted that there was noise, but they said that most of it came from the 25 police officers who were stationed nearby, using loudspeakers to explain that there was a law against this kind of picketing in Rockford and to tell demonstrators that they might be arrested.

Witnesses who supported the police told a different story. They said that the demonstrators cheered and chanted, insulting the police officers. They said that this noisy demonstration caused hundreds of students to jump up from their desks and line up at the windows to watch, that some demonstrators called to their friends to leave class and join the demonstration, that many students were late to class because they had been watching the demonstration, and that in general, the demonstration had seriously disrupted the school day.

Everyone agrees that the picketing lasted only 20 to 30 minutes, and that it was, in the words of one police officer, "very orderly." Everyone also agrees that Richard Grayned, whose brother and twin sisters were students at the school, made no noise whatsoever as he marched with the group. Nevertheless, he was one of some 40 demonstrators arrested.

Grayned--along with the other demonstrators--was arrested under two ordinances of the city of Rockford. One of them was an anti-picketing ordinance that prohibited picketing within a certain distance of a public school around the time that school was in session. Another was an antinoise ordinance that prohibited "the making of any noise or diversion which disturbs or tends to disturb the peace or good order of such school session or class thereof . . . "

Grayned was interested in more than just reversing his own conviction under the two ordinances. He wanted to strike down both laws, which made any kind of school-oriented demonstration impossible. Since the school board had not responded to their original demands, Grayned and others in his community wanted to be able to keep working to win their demands, through peaceful protests as well as through other means.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972Grayned v. City of Rockford - Significance, Who Made The Noise?, Broad Laws And Specific Restrictions, The Lone Dissenter, Related Cases