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ETpro's avatar

If police can arrest peaceful demonstrators for refusing to leave a public place, then what does the First Amendment right to assembly and petition mean?

Asked by ETpro (34208 points ) October 16th, 2011

The 1st Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees, among other things, the right to assemble and to petition our government for grievances.

Now corporations as such did not exist at the time the Constitution was written. Wall Street did not exist as an institution. Companies were granted charters by a state to operate within that state only. A very small number gained multi-state charters to carry out enterprises that needed to cross state boundaries. The Pony Express would be one such business.

But perhaps in their wisdom and foresight, our Founding Fathers knew Corporations would exist in the future and that they are the real “people” the Constitution is meant to defend, and so they just meant that corporations should be free to operate government by auction, as the system currently works and as the Supreme Court’s Citizens United vs. FEC decision guarantees it will continue to work.

So does the right to petition mean that lobbyists have the right to meet with government, but individual citizens do not? Are Americans going to leave the Occupy Wall Street protesters undefended and let Government of the people, by the Corporations and for the Corporations become the new watchword of freedom? Or should we organize a defense fund and take every case of illegal arrest toward the Supreme Court on appeal? If we do that long enough, do you think we can take our country back?

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11 Answers

marinelife's avatar

The right to assemble does not mean that assembly cannot be regulated.

TheIntern55's avatar

The right to assembaly was, I believe, first put into place because the people of Boston, and probably other places, weren’t allowed to hold public town meetings and would have been arrested for holding private ones. However, today I believe protesting is defined under that amendment, not just for it’s right to assemble, but for freedom of speech.
As for the defense fund idea, we pay taxes to supply a police force to defend the people. The police in Occupy Wall Street have been abusing that. This video has a first hand account of that abuse. The officer will probably be fired, but I doubt it is possible for all the officers who did wrong to be punished.

YARNLADY's avatar

Public Places are subject to health and safety rules, just like every where else. Many demonstrators were arrested for “storing” their belongings overnight in a public place, some for littering, and some for “failure to disburse” at the given time.

In our area, for instance, public parks close at a specified time, and anyone still in the park after that time is trespassing.

Linda_Owl's avatar

Mostly it means that the US is rapidly becoming a ‘Police State’ & the police forces are no longer concentrating on protecting & defending the public, but are now concentrating on controlling the public.

ratboy's avatar

This is the United States of America. Any citizen whiner who doubts the government’s power to make the exercise of his inalienable rights impossible may be subject to assassination on the president’s secret order.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ratboy Gasp! You’re so the liberal conspiracy-driving agent. ~

ETpro's avatar

@marinelife I have no problem with regulation when it is used for reasonable ends. When its obvious purpose becomes the contravention of Constitutional rights, I have a very big problem with it.

@TheIntern55 No, the right to assemble and petition dates back to the English Bill of Rights in 1689. It was put into the Constitution because it is a right that King George denied the colonists.

@YARNLADY A disturbing number of the arrests appear not to have been carried out for any reasonable violation of actual law, but simply to shut down the protest. There is ample video footage to prove it.

@Linda_Owl That’s exactly what concerns me.

@ratboy Not quite yet. Even our powerful government would have a problem they couldn’t manage on their hands if they sent in the black helicopters to machine-gun hundreds of thousands of people who were exercising their constitutional right to assemble and petition.

Ron_C's avatar

The right to free assembly, like free trade seems to only be available to the rich and connected. We now live in a fascist state with constantly dwindling rights.

ETpro's avatar

@Ron_C I think the sleeping giant has awakened to that fact, and that means it’s about to change till we goo back to sleep and let the Greedy Oligarch Party (whether that be Republican of Democratic at the time) do it all again like they did in the Gilded Age leading to the Great Depression.

Ron_C's avatar

@ETpro man, I hope you’re right! I fear, however that when the winter comes the protesters will fade away and further resistance to the power elite will be hidden by the corporate press. I still see state fascism in our future. They probably won’t have a strong leader like Hitler but Perry or Cain would be acceptable figureheads for the real power that remains hidden. Just like Bush, only worse.

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