Category Archives: Right to Peaceably Assemble

Protesting, Fighting Words, and the First Ammendment

The Fighting Words doctrine under the first amendment is defined as a limitation to the freedom of speech, as protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. But what are the limits that can be pushed before you cross the line over the gray area, and infringe upon others? Is protesting an example of inciting hate speech and fighting words? Under the fighting words doctrine, fightings words are split into two types of speech that are not protected, words that by their very utterance inflict injury, and speech that incites an immediate breach of the peace. This doctrine comes forth after the Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire case. This case was when Chaplinsky was immediately breaching the peace, and inciting utterance to inflict injury towards police officers, he was arrested. The Supreme Court decided to uphold the arrest, and therefore making the doctrine, originally the Chaplinsky clause, eventually they called it the the Fighting Words doctrine. In Topeka, Kansas, members of the Westboro Baptist Church like to protest at soldiers funerals, protesting the LGBTQ community, and blaming them for the soldiers deaths.

 

On February 1, 1949, in Chicago the Father Arthur Terminiello delivered a speech to his congregation where he bashed many different political groups, and racial groups, condemning his group to gather and riot. He was arrested for disturbing the peace, and for inciting a riot. It was because of his words that caused protest, and riots. Even though the court ruled in a 5 to 4 favor of Terminello, he still caused both a nuisance, and disrupted the peace. I think that inciting protests, and disrupting the peace should not be protected under the 1st Amendment. You should not get protection under the 1st amendment for disrupting everyday life for other people.

 

Sources:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaplinsky_v._New_Hampshire

https://www.thefire.org/misconceptions-about-the-fighting-words-exception/

https://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/337us1

 

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Does Hurtful Also Mean Harmful?

Does protesting an unpopular opinion violate the peaceable assembly clause of the First Amendment?

People in America have had the right to assemble since the constitution was put into place.  These protest have made great change in our society. For example peaceable assemblies have gotten us women’s rights, African american rights and many others. The library of congress states, “The Supreme Court of the United States has held that the First Amendment protects the right to conduct a peaceful public assembly.  The right to assemble is not, however, absolute.  Government officials cannot simply prohibit a public assembly in their own discretion, but the government can impose restrictions on the time, place, and manner of peaceful assembly, provided that constitutional safeguards are met.”(1).

There are many cases of people protesting their own opinions near soldiers funeral locations. This act is completely covered by the First Amendment in the Constitution as long as the protests are staying peaceful. The fact of the matter is that these events are trying to show that there are other opinions out there. They are protesting at these specific events because, “the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the attendant casualties, are divine punishment for America’s acceptance of lesbian and gay rights.”(2). Just because this might be something you agree with or do not does not mean they cannot protest. There were people trying to make sure the protesters had rules they needed to follow such as, being 300 feet away from the cemetery or being prohibited to protest 2 hours before the funeral. Such rules are not allowed by the supreme court and could leave you liable to be sued.

Although protesting an unpopular opinion is not deemed wrong it may hurt and affect the lives of many. There protesters that are standing with signs are soldiers funerals were in no wrong but that does not mean they aren’t affecting these families. People are coming to lay their sons, daughters, fathers, mothers or whoever they loved and lost down to rest. This was someone fighting for our country, protecting the citizens of the U.S. I feel as if it is not appropriate. Although it is legal, it can deeply scar and hurt the memories of people severely.

  1. Winston, Andrew M. “Right to Peaceful Assembly: United States.” Library of Congress, 1 Oct. 2014, www.loc.gov/law/help/peaceful-assembly/us.php.
  2. “Even Vile Funeral Protests Are Free Speech.” CNN, 8 Aug. 2012, http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/08/opinion/rottman-aclu-funerals-free-speech/.
  3. Lusk, Ashlon. “Opinion: Super Bowl Fans Uncontrollable, Expose Importance of Peaceful Protest.” LSU Now, The Daily Reveille, 19 Feb. 2018, http://www.lsunow.com/daily/opinion-super-bowl-fans-uncontrollable-expose-importance-of-peaceful-protest/article_5ce4d732-120e-11e8-b71f-d78cf03d7892.html.

Supreme Court thoughts on Peaceful Assembly and Free Speech outside clinics

The first amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting[…] the right of the people peaceably to assemble”. Peaceably being the key word there. The wording of the first amendment allows the government to step in if the protest becomes violent or dangerous, but where do we draw the line on where they should step in? This has been a big issue for awhile now with pro-life activists staging rather aggressive protests outside abortion clinics, and even a shooting rampage in Massachusetts in 1994. When young women are walking into a clinic, it isn’t fair for them to be screamed at by other women, telling that that they are going to hell, and a murderer. It is because of this that a few states have enacted laws creating a buffer zone around clinics where protesters must stay a certain distance from the clinic (typically around 50ft) and leave a bubble around any patients coming to or from the clinic in order to improve patients feeling of safety. However many feel that these limits infringe upon citizen’s first amendment right to peaceful assembly. There are many pro-life advocates who just want to have a quiet friendly chat with patients and show them that there are other options. The Supreme Court just struck down a law about this issue in 2014 when Massachusetts buffer zone law came into question. The Justices decided that limiting all speech in this way was a violation of the 1st amendment, and suggested that Massachusetts change the law to limit certain kinds of speech, ie harassment and threats, rather than banning all speech. This is ruling is interesting however, because only a few years before, the supreme court voted to uphold a similar law in Colorado. Clearly this is an issue that falls in the grey area of the law, and work still needs to be done in order to solidify the boundaries of peaceful assembly and free speech.

 

“The Bill Of Rights: A Transcription.” National Archives. N. p., 2015. Web. 13 Feb. 2018.
“Court Strikes Down Abortion Clinic “Buffer Zone”: In Plain English – Scotusblog.” SCOTUSblog. N. p., 2014. Web. 13 Feb. 2018.

Where to Draw the Line on Peaceful Assemblies

“The First Amendment is not without limits” –Jerry Falwell. This view of the first amendment is an accurate one. Individuals seem to believe that the first amendment protects all speech, all assemblies, and every action where one voices their own opinion. Yet like most things in life, the first amendment has its limits. Limits are set in place not to take away all the rights, but to ensure that people feel safe while still being allowed to share their voice. This introduces the question of, is gathering and speaking your opinion outside public buildings protected by the peaceable assemblies clause of the First Amendment or does this to have its limits?

The limits on the first amendment have been a cause of debate for many years. At the University of Wisconsin Madison, students demanded that the chancellor condemn hate speech after a student tried to start a chapter of a white nationalist group on campus. Brea City in California tried to pass a proposal for permits on public assemblies. Under the proposal, the city would require permits for public assemblies of 30 people or more in Brea Downtown and 75 people or more in other parts of the city. This permit would need to be submitted at least four days in advance. In both of these cases, the communities felt the need to limit the first amendment to help enforce the safety of others. Brea City Mayor, Glenn Parker stated, “the proposal is based on ‘good intent’ to find a balance between the right to demonstrate and the right for businesses, shoppers, and residents to have peace and public safety. We all respect the right, but we also feel there needs to be a balance and respect for those people that maybe aren’t involved in the process.” Because assembly involves free expression, the first amendment guarantees that as long as people peaceably convent to picket or protest the state may not penalize. However, this protection does not immunize the gathering from general safety and welfare laws designed to protect private property, facilitate traffic or minimize congestion. The peaceable assemblies have its limits to add to the law and to protect individuals while still trying to protect your voice.

Some people may see these limits as taking away their rights given to them, but imagine trying to attend the dentist and a small gathering stands in your way telling you that the dentist is scary and needs to be banned. The fear of being hurt while trying to live your life is deafening. The limit of getting a permit or getting consent before approaching an individual ensures both parties can live their life, still be protected under the first amendment, and can speak their voice to be heard. Gathering and speaking your opinion outside public buildings is protected by the peaceable assemblies clause of the First Amendment, but it comes with limits.

 

 

 

Speech Codes: Are They a Scourge or a Savior to Free Speech?

Many people know the First Amendment: the right to expression, the right to peacefully assemble, freedom of the press, the right to petition the government, etcetera. However, not many people know where the boundaries of these rights lie. People push these boundaries all the time and right now college campuses are but one example. Administrators at colleges are attempting to enforce speech codes. Yet, does enforcing speech codes violate the right to free expression described in the First Amendment? How far can speech codes go before the contradict the rights to free expression and peaceful protesting described in the First Amendment?

There are many ways speech codes could be enforced. But depending on how they are applied, they could break the First Amendment. A few forms of expression, specifically in regards to free speech, that are not protected by the First Amendment are slander or libel, fighting words, and obscenity. This means that someone can not go in front of a crowd and defame, insult, threaten, or say anything that may be considered hate speech to someone without consequences. One example of hate speech can be seen in a video of Milo Yiannopoulous at UW Milwaukee. In this video, he verbally attacked and degraded a transgender student. They still were spoken with no point other than to make fun of a subject and way of life that Yiannopoulous did not agree with. Another example of hate speech and fighting words is threats. As stated by Ben Shapiro, some people “greeted the birth of [his] second child by calling for [him, his] wife, and two children to be thrown into a gas chamber”. There was no purpose to this statement other than to express a disagreement with his religion. Under the First Amendment, hate speech is not something you can say without consequences. Speech Codes cannot be used to prevent speakers with controversial opinions from speaking. They cannot prevent people from peacefully disagreeing and debating about topics. However, speech codes can apply consequences if that speech becomes hateful or slanderous since that speech would no longer be protected under the First Amendment.

Some Speech Codes are also attempting to limit the student’s right to peacefully protest a speaker. The First Amendment specifically says “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble”. To restrict the right to peacefully assemble is a direct violation of the First Amendment. Yet, as seen on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education website, also known as FIRE, some college campuses are restricting the student’s rights to peacefully assemble and protest on the grounds that they are disrupting the speaker’s right to freedom of speech. Furthermore, the Wisconsin Campus Free Speech Act states that “protests and demonstrations that interfere with the expressive rights of others are subject to sanction”. There must be a line drawn as to what qualifies as disruptive and interfering demonstrations. The line is whether or not there is any form of violence or hate speech. If a protester simply said the speaker was wrong, held signs, and argued about right versus wrong, nothing can be done about it because they are protesting peacefully, as the First Amendment says they can. However, if a protestor started doing damage or cursing out the speaker, then they would have to face consequences. Recently at UC Berkeley, protesters became very violent at a speech by Yiannopoulous and had to be escorted off the premises. UC Berkeley encompasses what a protest that is not protected by the First Amendment is, and what Speech Codes can restrict.

In the end, Speech codes can be useful to make speeches more peaceful and clearly define punishments for breaking that peace, however, they must still subject to the First Amendment.

Sources:

EBSCO: The New Battle Over Campus Free Speech

Milo Yiannopoulos verbally attacks a transgender student (1:30-3:05)

The Atlantic: The Glaring Evidence That Free Speech Is Threatened on Campus

Wisconsin Campus Free Speech Act

A few examples of Hate Speech against Ben Shapiro

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)

UC Berkeley

When does protesting step over the line.

          Does creating buffer zones in front of public buildings violate a person’s right to peaceably assemble that is granted to them through the first amendment. In some places around the united states local governments are creating “buffer zones” around public buildings to prevent violent protesters from gaining access to the facility. In the past violent protesters have caused serious damage, for example the Berkeley riots in February of 2017. The people who participated in these riots were brought on by antifa and far-left socialists because they disliked the exercise of free speech by an individual named Milo Yiannopoulos. The “alt-left” were using and abusing the very same right they were trying to suppress. If there were buffer zones the violence could have theoretically been lessened. It is only ok for a local government to introduce buffer zones if they deem in necessary for the safety of the people they are sworn to protect. In 2014 the supreme court dismissed a proposed law from Massachusetts to create buffer zones outside of abortion clinics because people attempting to get inside were being heckled by right-leaning protesters.

          The first amendment should be upheld fully until the point at which its protections hurt the people it was implemented to protect. When protesting peacefully becomes full scale rioting it is time to step in and prevent violence. In general conservatives are known for holding the 1st amendment, and the rest of the constitution, in high regards. On the other hand Liberals are generally known for disliking some of the pillars of the constitution. In conclusion the 1st amendment does protect the rights of the people to protest but it doesn’t protect their right to riot and hurt other people.

Group against proposed Toledo law on abortion clinic access: EBSCOhost

” Group Against Proposed Toledo Law On Abortion Clinic Access: Ebscohost .” Web.b.ebscohost.com. N. p., 2017. Web. 27 Sept. 2017.

EDITORIAL: It’s a crime scene, not a ‘protest’: EBSCOhost

” EDITORIAL: It’s A Crime Scene, Not A ‘Protest’: Ebscohost .” Web.b.ebscohost.com. N. p., 2017. Web. 27 Sept. 2017.

 

Praying Before Football Games- Against the Law or Not?

In a lot of places, they pray before football and other games. It has been going on for a long time. Now, people are challenging if this is going against the law. The 1st Amendment gives people freedom of speech and religion. How people interpret that leads to conflict on this issue.

The football team in Dumore has prayed before games for a long time (read more here). They are now told they can’t and are not happy about it. They can’t pray before the game anymore because they were told it’s against the law as public teacher and coaches should not be involved in leading religious acts. The 1st Amendment says freedom of religion. Some people think that means that people should be free to pray if they want. The other side thinks that means students can choose to pray, but it can’t be led by staff because it goes against the separation of church and state. If people from a different religion or belief were there, they could feel pressured to just follow along or be treated differently.

In conclusion, students can still pray if they want, but the 1st amendment makes it so people can be free to practice their own religions how they want to and not how the school tells them to.(read more here)

Works Cited:

“PRO/CON…Should sports teams be allowed to pray before games?” October 18, 2012 by Amy Ayala from King’s Courier

http://www.ecrjournalism.com/opinioneditorial/2012/10/18/procon-should-sports-teams-be-allowed-to-pray-before-games/

“When Faith and Football Don’t Mix” by Ken Paulson October 23, 2012

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2012/10/23/football-texas-religion-prayer/1653057/

“Prayer Before Football Game Ruled Against The Law” by Stacy Lange 11/4/2016

wnep.com/2016/11/04/prayer-before-football-game-rule-against-the-law/