Constitutional Law-Civil Rights-Threat of Mob Violence as Justification for Restraint on Exercise of Right to Travel in Interstate Commerce

Pursuant to a plan to test for racial segregation in interstate commerce facilities, white and Negro students traveled through Alabama on an interstate bus journey. In Birmingham and Anniston, the students were assaulted by members of the Ku Klux Klan and other conspirators; at or near Anniston one of the buses was destroyed. On arrival at Montgomery, the students were again assaulted and intimidated by members of the Ku Klux Klan and various other individuals. The Montgomery police, with full knowledge of the impending violence, did nothing to protect the personal safety of the interstate travelers. The plaintiff, United States, initiated proceedings, seeking a preliminary injunction restraining the defendants, the Ku Klux Klan and others, from interfering with the travel of passengers into and through Alabama. Two of the defendants, Montgomery officials, then petitioned the court to issue a temporary restraining order against the students and the various groups supporting them to prevent further use of the interstate facilities in the state. Held, preliminary injunction against the defendants and temporary restraining order against the students and their supporters granted. Although the defendants were unlawfully interfering with the acknowledged rights of the students and although the inactivity of the Montgomery police force constituted “state action” in violation of the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment, the peaceful activity of the students and ·their supporters was an undue burden on interstate commerce. United States v. U.S. Klans, Knights of Ku Klux Klan, Inc., 194 F. Supp. 897 (M.D. Ala. 1961).