Warning: case uses term “negroes,” because it was argued in 1962.
This is a slight departure from my normal cemetery fare, but this case deserves remembrance.
In 1961 six young adults were arrested for playing basketball peacefully in Daffin Park. Apparently in Savannah playing basketball while Black was indeed a crime. This is the Supreme Court case syllabus where talented attorney James M. Nabrit, III fought to overturn the convictions for these young people.
Petitioners, six young Negroes, were convicted of breach of the peace for peacefully playing basketball in a public park in Savannah, Ga., customarily used only by white people and not dispersing when ordered to do so by the police. There was no evidence of disorderly conduct or of any activity which might be thought to violate a breach of the peace statute. One of the arresting officers testified that petitioners were arrested because they were Negroes. At their trial, both in a demurrer to the accusation and in motions for a new trial, petitioners contended, inter alia, that the breach of the peace statute violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it did not give adequate warning that their conduct violated it. The Georgia Supreme Court held that error in denial of the motions for a new trial could not be considered because it was not properly briefed on the appeal, and it affirmed the convictions.
Not too shockingly, the officer that arrested them completely agreed that they did nothing wrong.
The officer also conceded that
“I have never made previous arrests in Daffin Park because people played basketball there. . . . I arrested these people for playing basketball in Daffin Park. One reason was because they were negroes. I observed the conduct of these people, when they were on the basketball court and they were doing nothing besides playing basketball, they were just normally playing basketball, and none of the children from the schools were there at that particular time.”
Nabrit argued the case to the Supreme Court Flawlessly. If you want to hear his argument or read more on the case, you can do so here: