Brief Fact Summary. Beginning in 1966, under the direction of the Petitioner, the Mississippi National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) (Petitioner), black citizens began to boycott the businesses of several white merchants, on the basis of racial injustice. The Respondents, Claiborne Hardware Co. and other merchants (Respondents), brought suit asking for damages, alleging that their businesses had suffered due to the boycott.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The freedom to associate includes the freedom to demonstration, provided that a demonstration does not lead to violence.
The constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a state to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.View Full Point of Law
Issue. This case considers whether demonstrators in a boycott, who are exercising their right to freely associate, can be held liable for damages caused to a business as a result of the boycott.
The Court held that, while a boycott may have the affect of disrupting business, a merchant cannot sue for damages when the demonstration is nonviolent and voluntary. Where, however, violence is used, the individual inciting the violence may be held liable for the damages caused by his actions.
Concurrence. Judge William Rehnquist (J. Rehnquist) concurred
Discussion. Included in the right to freely associate is the right to demonstrate and align one’s self with the ideals of the association.