Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Trial of the Century

1. The Issue:
When can the police disrupt a political demonstration?

2. The Facts:
On March 20th, The World Cant Wait held a demonstration in front of the White House. The police shut down the demonstration, created a police line around a number of protesters who brought coffins, and arrested them. People gathered, and a barrier erected by the police fell over. Cindy Sheehan was propelled forward, and then remained in the area to be arrested by the police for crossing a police line, while another policeman returned the barrier to the upright position.

3. The Argument:
Since the First Amendment reads, in part, "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the ... right of the people peaceably to assemble, to petition the government", it is plain that
i. the Constitution foresees peaceable assemblies to oppose government policies, and
ii. it recognizes a right to such assemblies, and
iii. it recognizes that right to assemble as prior to the Constitution.
iv. The right to assemble cannot be overturned by Constitutional Amendment.

A restriction on the legislative branch against making a law is also a restriction on the executive branch against enforcing a law, and a restriction on the judicial branch against upholding a law.

When a demonstration turns violent, or poses a clear and present danger, the authorities may act to prevent the violence or to cloud or postpone the danger.
Time, place, and manner restrictions can be put in place by the government, only to reasonably balance the right to assemble with other rights of similar Constitutional importance; for example, the right to carry on the business of the Senate.

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