Jeanette Rankin Brigade v. Capitol Police Historic Case

At a Glance

Date Filed: 


Case Description 

Jeanette Rankin Brigade v. Capitol Police arose when a group of protestors was arrested under a federal statute that prohibited demonstrating, walking, or standing in groups on the Capitol grounds. It was the same statute used to arrest 990 Mayday supporters in 1971 who had assembled on the Capitol steps to hear anti-war speeches by several members of Congress.

In May 1972, a three-judge district court panel declared the statute unconstitutional and enjoined its enforcement, concluding that it would be difficult to imagine a law that more plainly violates the principle that First Amendment freedoms need breathing space to exist.

The U.S. government appealed the district court’s decision. But on November 6, 1972, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision without opinion.

The government acted unconstitutionally not only in waging the war in Vietnam but in repressing those who disagreed with and demonstrated against it. This case represented a significant victory in the battle against repression of dissent won by CCR attorneys.