Rachel A. Harmon

Policing, Protesting, and the Insignificance of Hostile Audiences

Knight First Amendment Institute


Cities like Charlottesville face uncertain First Amendment obligations when confronting major events. In his thoughtful paper, “The Hostile Audience Revisited,” Frederick Schauer illustrates this uncertainty by raising several questions that arise from the Supreme Court’s “hostile audience” cases about how vigorously municipalities must protect speakers who generate a strong response, and at what cost to other public policy objectives. In this comment, I suggest that while the hostile audience doctrine imagines disfavored speakers in need of distinctive protection, for cities and towns, such speakers and those who would oppose them raise challenges far more like disorderly protesters than like a distinctive First Amendment phenomenon.


Rachel Harmon, Policing, Protesting, and the Insignificance of Hostile Audiences, Knight First Amendment Institute (November 2, 2017).

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