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Grayned v. City of Rockford

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  • Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88 (1940).
  • Edwards v. South Carolina, 372 U.S. 229 (1963).
  • Adderley v. Florida, 385 U.S. 39 (1966).
  • Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins, 447 U.S. 74 (1980).
  • Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New York, 519 U.S. 357 (1997).
When is picketing constitutionally protected?

Picketing is normally a peaceful carrying of signs and banners clearly advertising a grievance or the purpose of a demonstration. It is a recognized means of communication.

Beginning in the 1930s, some states sought to hinder the development of labor unions by passing laws prohibiting pickets. The states argued picketing is conduct, not speech, and, therefore, not protected by the First Amendment. In 1941 the Supreme Court concluded, however, that peaceful picketing is a constitutionally protected means of transmitting ideas.

The guarantee of free expression has often been weighed against a state's desire to preserve public peace through picketing restrictions. Normally, picketing that becomes an instrument of force, vandalism, intimidation, or coercion is not protected by the First Amendment. Similarly, First Amendment protection does not apply to picketing that is part of other conduct violating state law. For example, if the purpose of picketing is to force an employer to replace his non-union workers with union workers, the activity would be contrary to a state's valid right-to-work law. The Court would uphold a state's action to stop the picketing. Therefore, the First Amendment protects from state restriction all non-violent picketing that is not part of other illegal conduct.


Biskupic, Joan and Witt, Elder. Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1997.

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