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Failing The First Amendment

So I was reading some comments on Facebook the other day when I noticed something and had to do a double take. Now, that by itself happens often enough, but this time the comments in reply each could have gotten their own guffaw.

The posted question was, "Where in the constitution does it say that protests have to be peaceful?" The responses were equally as baffling as they seemed to encourage and egg on the poster with things like "Amen" and "It don't." In fact, the crazy part is that I almost sprained my finger scrolling down before I found someone with enough sense to say that it's written in the same place where you get the right to protest from, the first amendment. You should have seen the hate that he got.

The first amendment states, "...or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." I mean, it's RIGHT there. if it's not a peaceable assembly, it's not protected by the first amendment or the constitution. Therefore, any assembly that is not peaceable is by it's very nature illegal and subject to whatever legal jurisdiction it falls under. That's right, your right to peaceably assemble is protected, your right to riot and smash things isn't. And it's time for the politicians to stand up and say so. does a fantastic job of explaining it, so I'll just let them do this part:


"No, First A includes the most important limit in the actual words of the amendment: “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” That means law enforcement may break up any gathering that has turned violent or raises a “clear and present danger” of violence or disorder (Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 (1940)). The “clear and present danger” standard is a particularly high hurdle for government officials to overcome if they want to prevent planned gatherings ahead of time."


The case, Cantwell v. Connecticut clearly lays out that violence, threat of violence, or the purpose of assembling to commit violence aren't protected by the first amendment. The Law Library of Congress states clearly:


The First Amendment does not provide the right to conduct an assembly at which there is a clear and present danger of riot, disorder, or interference with traffic on public streets, or other immediate threat to public safety or order.  Statutes that prohibit people from assembling and using force or violence to accomplish unlawful purposes are permissible under the First Amendment.


This means that cities, counties, and states who are enforcing peace and who are quelling violent uprisings are NOT violating the rights of the protesters, rather it is the protesters who are violating the law.

Why is this important? Well because if you don't understand this, then it becomes easy to view the drastic measures being taken by the police and peacekeepers as evil and heinous. Instead, this clearly shows that the law has already established that these riots are in and of themselves evil and heinous, and therefore are unlawful. You do not get to bring justice by inflicting injustice on other innocent parties, and since I completely reject critical theory, I do believe that those who've committed no crime or injury upon another are innocent.

Though you cannot lump the peaceful protesters in with the rioters, we do need to communicate to them how their cause and righteous fury are being co-opted, and how it is destroying the very good for which they are fighting.

So the next time someone attempts to tell you that ALL forms of protest are protected by the first amendment, you can confidently say that they are not. If it ceases to be peaceable, it ceases to be legal, and it becomes a crime that needs the intervention of law enforcement.

We have the right to protest. We do not have the right to riot, smash, break, burn, destroy, blow up, explode, cut, slash, beat, kick, or in any other violent manner attack anyone or anything, regardless of how righteous our cause may be.

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