“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble…” This is, in a nutshell, what every student’s answer should be. The First Amendment applies to all citizens equally; certain groups do not get preferential treatment. The problem with the First Amendment is that so often, there are instances of it applying “to me, but not to thee.” That is, the First Amendment is great when the majority of the population agrees with what is being said, but that as soon as a dissenting or unpopular opinion is voiced, the populace immediately wishes to forgo the First Amendment and shut the unpopular opinion up. The Nazi Party should, nay, MUST be allowed to march and stage their rally in
The complaint that violence will result from a given action, such as a rally, is a common reason given in attempts to restrict the First Amendment right of freedom of assembly. This justification is a non sequitur, for one simple reason: the laws of this country do not permit the government to arrest anyone on the possibility they will break the law. The arrest can only take place after the law has been broken. In such an incendiary situation as this, the police should monitor the crowd closely, and should not hesitate to take action if there is law-breaking activity taking place. But blocking a group’s right to assemble on the basis that the assembly will cause violence or other law-breaking leads the country down a slippery slope. Anti-war marches often result in violence. Should the government prevent all anti-war marches from taking place? There have been instances of sports rallies or crowds getting out of hand. Should the government ban all sports rallies on the pretense that they incite violence? If the right to assemble peaceably does not apply to all groups, it applies to none.
Another concern over having a broad right to assemble is the intimidation that can result in a community from a radical or controversial group staging a rally in the town. On the face of it, this argument seems to have more merit than the argument that violence will result. After all, it seems reasonable to assume that the citizens of this country have a right, as a self-governing nation, to expect their government to do as the majority of citizens of that government see fit, including ensuring the comfort of those citizens to be free from offensive and intimidating messages. However, this viewpoint illustrates a common fallacy about American government: this country is often described as a “country founded on democracy,” when in fact this is a nation founded on the rule of law. The difference is that in a true, absolute democracy, the “voice of the people” has the final say on what laws to keep, while in a country under the rule of law, the supreme law of the land, the Constitution, has the final say on which laws to keep and which must be struck down. An extension of this broad principle is the idea that the First Amendment is not intended to “protect” the rights of the majority; instead, it is intended to truly protect the rights of the minority, such as those who express views that are considered unpopular, even offensive.
The last major concern over maintaining a broad right to assemble is that prejudicial messages and hate speech may be heard and protected under the right. The simplest rebuttal to this statement is that there is nothing in the First Amendment that guarantees a right to not be offended. As long as the hate speech does not directly incite violence, it must be protected as free speech. In addition, it has been said that the best counter to hate speech is more speech. The people of
Anyway, hope you enjoyed that...if I find the time, expect some posts in regards to some National Guardsmen who are trying to get the family of a dead Iraqi ally asylum, and the poor state of U.S. intelligence.