In 1937, several members of the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) (plaintiff) gathered in Jersey City, New Jersey for a recruitment drive and other union activities. The plan involved canvassing city streets and parks to distribute materials to New Jersey citizens. Mayor Frank Hague (defendant) refused to allow the meeting to take place and ordered police to seize the group’s materials. Hague considered CIO members to be Communists, and he argued that he was enforcing a city ordinance that forbade gatherings of groups that advocated obstruction of government by unlawful means. The CIO filed suit against Hague and several other city officials in federal district court on the grounds that the ordinance violated their Fourteenth Amendment right to freedom of assembly. The district court found that the CIO’s rights had been abridged by Hague’s conduct and held that the ordinance was unconstitutional. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.