About a year and a half ago, I wrote a column lamenting attacks on the First Amendment. At the time, the U.S. Supreme Court had just issued its Citizens United ruling, which permitted corporations to exercise its free speech rights in elections.
I said then, and believe now, that if the First Amendment were to be put through Congress today, it might have difficulty passing. And if it did make it through the halls of our nation’s Capitol, I wonder if it would be ratified by the states.
What’s got my First Amendment guard up this time is the treatment that a number of protesters around the country have gone through the past couple of weeks.
I’ve not been a big fan of the Occupy Wall Street movement, nor its affiliate protests around the nation. I won’t go into my reasons for that. It’s not the purpose of this post.
I do believe, however, in their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble to petition their government.
I don’t believe that the First Amendment gives them a right to block traffic or create unhealthy or unsanitary conditions. And I don’t believe they have the right to occupy someone else’s property without the property owner’s permission.
It was a bit disturbing to read of the pepper spraying of peaceful protesters at the University of California-Davis the other day.
Closer to home, I’ve yet to understand the handcuffing and brief detention of journalists covering a Chapel Hill protest was necessary. Can someone please explain?
I have no sympathy for the protesters occupying a building that didn’t belong to them, but I do wonder if the police didn’t go a bit overboard when they stormed the area with assault rifles.
As for the peaceful protesters across the state and nation who do follow the law, I fear that weariness and impatience have prompted officials to ignore the First Amendment.
We’re a nation whose Constitution says that we have to legally tolerate a small group of haters from Kansas who call themselves a “church” when they protest at funerals of fallen soldiers who have answered the call of their nation.
If we can do that, I think we can tolerate the First Amendment freedoms of those who want to associate with the “Occupy” movement, no matter how misplaced we may think their goals are. That’s, of course, assuming they’re not occupying property where the owner says they’re unwelcome, and that they’re complying with the aforementioned regulations.