Protest sentences to ponder, Selma edition

Today, it would be impossible to obtain a federal court order permitting a five-day protest march on a 52-mile stretch of a major U.S. highway. Under contemporary legal doctrine, the Selma protests would have ended March 8, 1965.

…Starting in the 1970s…the federal courts began rolling back this idea. A series of rulings erected what is known as the public forum doctrine, which lets a city, state or the federal government decide whether public property can be used for 1st Amendment activities. It also means that if courts do not designate a place a “traditional public forum,” government may forbid its use as a site of protest altogether.

That is from Ronald J. Krotosynszski, Jr., there is more of interest here.


So what? The law changed later.

At the time it seems the march was legal. When African-Americans started exercising their Constitutional rights, the courts "re-interpreted" what those rights were.

"Congress shall make no law respecting..the right of the people peaceably to assemble".

Sounds pretty unambiguous to me.

What if we wanted to peaceably assemble tomorrow morning at 3 am in the 2nd story of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.?

You'd get arrested. Because it's a private resident and office. You're giving absurd examples. Using your logic, one could take rifles out of the depots of the US Army since they're publicly-funded and that Congress can pass no law restricting the right to bear arms.

He gave one absurd example to show that the wording is not unambiguous. Obviously there are limitations.

Congress shall make no law respecting..the right of the people peaceably to assemble
Note the word "Congress" in that amendment, which is why my city government can forbid my neighbor from having a 500 person Bible study meeting in her house every Tuesday night.

Via the magic of due process incorporation (only slightly less mysterious than transubstantiation) it now applies to your city government as well.

Boomer nostalgia, hooray.

In my opinion it should be illegal for any assembly to substantially block any public space. They need to stay off roads and leave at least three meters of space for pedestrians. They have the right to protest, but they don't have a right to block access from others.

I believe that is the basic justification they use to deny protest permits in Moscow all the time.

I'm somewhat sympathetic to your idea but how in the world did you come up with the "three meters" number? I feel like most sidewalks are far narrower, even when completely empty!

"Wherever the title of streets and parks may rest, they have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions. Such use of the streets and public places has, from ancient times, been a part of the privileges, immunities, rights, and liberties of citizens."

Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization, Supreme Court, 1939.

Combine it with the right of private landowners to dictate who can enter onto their land, and you're left in a (ruling class) ideal situation where protesters can only go where the relevant government body, whom incidentally the protesters are likely protesting against, allow them to. AKA nowhere at all.

Also, since nearly all roads are publicly-owned (typically via bonds), why are motorists allowed access while non-motorists are not?

listen, people, please: act like grownups. Anywhere anyone is doing any protesting, it's either because the government there is (at least temporarily) weak, or because the government has decided to allow it to occur. What this means is anyone who thought he was sticking it to the man out there 'on the street' or whatever was really just having trouble identifing the real man, whom he was serving all along. Remember OWS? What happened there? Bloomberg indugled these overgrown children, and the very second he decided not to any more, they all went home or to jail. Grow Up!

Meanwhile I have no idea why the right of someone with a bad idea should automatically precede the right of someone else to get to work unharried. No person normally acquainted with the English language but otherwise untainted with the pieties of our time could possibly explain what blocking the streets with mere biomass has to do with speech and the verbal transmission of ideas/opinions/etc. You and 50,000 of your friends have some great idea that we all must hear? Take an ad out in the damned newspaper, and get your stupid bodies out of the way.

Willitts = right.

So basically, protests should be restricted (in favor of petitions) because you dont like them.

Fortunately, that's the very reason why the right for peaceful assembly is explicitly enshrined.

Deliberately blocking normal people's access to a functional public space for your psychotic screeds isn't remotely "peaceful".

Who said anything about deliberately blocking? The only deliberate blocking going on is by various government agencies.

I always enjoy watching the inherent discrepancy between conservatives' love of minimal government weigh against their fear of non-enslaved black men - see gun control against blacks in southern states. Or mandatory one-year work contracts in post-war south. Or grandfather clauses. Or...

Thankfully, KPres, you don't get to decide whose "screeds" are "psychotic". Sadly, other people have decided that the very institutions that are the object of protest get to decide where and when the protesters get to assemble.

Unauthorized protest is the only real peaceable assembly worth pursuing anymore. If one tries "getting permission," the executive and judicial branches will assign a place and time that guarantees a zero-impact assembly.

KPres is right. Blacks asking for equal rights is a psychotic screed. They should accept their legal status as property or move back to Africa.

Guess what, genius: the right to bear arms is 'explicitly enshrined' too. Now give me my glock.

(Get it? The strong decide; we abide. Anything else is childish fantasy.)

Guess the growing up thing isn't gonna happen.

I don't recall any such restrictions on the Occupy rabble.

Because white people aren't threatening to general sensibilities.

If they were black and in Missorui, they'd have every charge from jaywalking to loitering thrown at them
With court fees, of course.

Not to mention arson...just cause you burned down the local liquor store. Figgin' racists!

And worse, they burned down a church -

'As chaos engulfed several Ferguson streets Monday, Lee tried unsuccessfully to chase away looters and put out fires along West Florissant Avenue. Then his phone rang.

The officer on the other end of the line told him that he needed to get to his church right away. By the time Lee arrived, the cinder-block structure had been gutted by flames.

“We all know the church got set on fire,” Lee said. “I put everything I had into the church. And to see the smoke shooting out and fire shooting out, it really did something to me.”


Although other buildings were burned during the violence that consumed much of Ferguson on Monday, the flames at Flood Christian Church were different. The church building, purchased in March by the 31-year-old Lee, sits well outside the area where things were violent, far from the riots. The glass storefronts on each side remain unscathed.'

Well, depending on what one means by 'they' of course - as noted by the pastor in the article, 'That’s when hateful messages and death threats started — from Wilson supporters, from white supremacist groups and from Internet bigots.

“Seventy-one death threats. But I’ll never forget what one man said to me: ‘I’m going to come pick you up with all you other hateful n----- preachers and put you all in your church and burn you straight to hell.’ ”'

Two steps forward one step back. The story of progress throughout history. We shouldn't be surprised.

Also, the nature of streets has certainly changed over time. Streets used to be dominated by pedestrian and animal activity.

Now, in most jurisdictions, streets are meant for high-speed vehicular activity. Often, any other use of the roadway is explicitly prohibited.

Courts will treat street corners, squares and parks as a "traditional public forum" and so governments cannot prevent protests there. Perhaps the same goes for actual streets as long the protest is time-limited. Or at least if there were ever a test case where a government was obviously taking the piss, then courts might decide to set such a precedent.

For all their faults, modern US governments don't seem to be cracking down on public protests. The Occupiers were allowed seize public property for weeks on end before being being chased off. Tea Party protests seem to go unmolested.

The only thing that really seems to be resented is dancing:,

Twerking is permitted anywhere, anytime.

"The Occupiers were allowed seize public property for weeks on end before being being chased off."

Public property? Interesting concept, how does it square with "private" property? Isn't all property, in reality, public property? Doesn't the nation/state merely allow, for the payment of annual fees, use, subject to various codes and mandates, for an indeterminate amount of time, property that the nation/state and its subsidiaries have no immediate use for?

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