Hostile-Audience Confrontations: Police Conduct and First Amendment Rights

This Note first suggests an explicit standard for police conduct in the hostile-audience situation that defines procedures the police must follow at various stages to avoid violating the first amendment. The standard reflects the fact that first amendment free speech rights are not absolute and that such rights must be weighed against both compelling state interests and the competing constitutional claims of other persons. It seeks to reconcile the interest in public order with our constitutional commitment to open discussion and robust debate. Finally, to deter police abuse of first amendment rights in the hostile-audience context, reforms of tort law are suggested that provide redress for speakers who have been wrongly silenced.