The United States Supreme Court has never held that a trespasser or an uninvited guest may exercise general rights of free speech on property privately owned and used nondiscriminatorily for private purposes only. Even where public property is involved, it is not necessarily available for speaking, picketing, or other communicative activities.
The shopping center desired to prevent the distribution by the protesters of handbill invitations to a meeting to protest the draft and the Vietnam War. The district court found a First Amendment right to distribute handbills in the shopping center, and issued a permanent injunction restraining it from interfering with such right. The appellate court affirmed. Before the Supreme Court the shopping center claimed that the decision violated the rights of private property protected by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Are protesters First Amendment rights violated when they are prevented from distributing handbills in private property?
The Court held that there were no public streets or sidewalks within the shopping center, which was enclosed and entirely covered except for the landscaped portions of some of the interior malls where the distribution occurred. Although the stores closed at customary hours, the malls were not physically closed, as pedestrian window-shopping was encouraged. The shopping center always had a strictly enforced policy against the distribution of handbills within its malls. The Supreme Court held that there had been no dedication of the privately owned shopping center to public use as to entitle the protesters to exercise therein the asserted First Amendment rights.