Freedom of Assembly
Maria R. Quinionez-Sheehan
St. Gregory’s University
Freedom of Assembly
Out of the first ten Amendments, called the Bill of Rights, the one that is considered the most important is the first Amendment. It is considered as such because it protects the rights that we hold dearest, and it is important to a democratic government by stating what it is not allowed to do.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances (The U.S. National Archives and ...view middle of the document...
People may assemble in a public place, such as parks, streets, sidewalks, city halls, state capitol buildings, and national monuments. The ability to peaceably assemble gives citizens the opportunity, regardless of that they are employed as a government employee, private businesses, or by a nonprofit, to participate in America's political and electoral process.
Picketing is protected when it is conducted in an orderly manner to bring light to a grievance or injustice; for example, picketing in cases of civil rights issues or anti-war demonstrations. It can also be used to show support for political candidates and even to celebrate their towns founding. Many groups use assembly show their support or opposition at city meetings. A few years ago, several people from the city of Tecumseh assembled to show their opposition to the city's decision to dispense with the local garbage collection and bring in a company from Oklahoma City. Without the right to assemble, this would not have been possible.
Even though the first amendment guarantees freedom of assembly, groups are not allowed to ‘assemble' on private property; they can however gather on the sidewalk of said property. State and local officials are allowed to place regulations on assemblies provided that they are reasonable and fair, however, deciding what is reasonable isn't always easy, officials cannot deny permits to assemble based on their sense of decency, morals, or convenience. Just because we have the right of assembly, it does not always guarantee the freedom to do so; the government can limit the time, place, and manner of assembly to protect the public good. As with other basic rights, the court must weigh freedom of assembly against the public interest. Demonstrations near schools during school hours, intending to disrupt class work, are not protected because a student's right to an unfettered education outweighs the right to demonstrate. There are laws that make parading near a courthouse in an attempt to influence judges, jurors, or witnesses illegal. It is not an attempt to prevent the right to assemble, but because a fair trial is considered more important. Protesting in a jail or inside a courthouse is off-limits because it poses a potential danger. So, even though people have the right to assemble, the government has the same right, as well as the responsibility to maintain order. Sometimes a peaceful assembly may be broken up if bystanders become violent. When a hostile onlooker disrupts a peaceful speech or assembly with shouting insults, or physical altercation with demonstrators and threatening violence, it can force police to stop an otherwise lawful assembly in order to protect the public. The right of assembly does not always come with complete freedom to do so.
The first amendment came into existence because the founding fathers wanted to guarantee that American's basic civil liberties would not be threatened or taken away by the government. ...