Freedom of Assembly and Petition By Serena Aponte

Constitutional Provisions

Rights of Assembly and Petition: The 1st and 14th Amendments of the Constitution give and protect the people's right to peaceably assemble and petition. To Assemble is to express your views by organizing in groups with the hope of influencing public policy and opinion. Petitioning is the act of bringing your views to the attention of public officials in the form of petitions, letters, or marches.

Civil Disobedience: Nonviolently violating the law in order to express opinion on public policy or law. This is not a constitutionally protected right, and those who take part in these rallies generally are ready to accept their consequences in a court of law.

Time, Place, and Manner Rules

The Government can enforce rules that control the time, place, and manner of assemblies. For example, in court case Cox v. Louisiana, state law was passed prohibiting parades near a courthouse when they are related to the ongoing court procession.

Restrictions on Government: The rules that the government passes for keeping public peace must be reasonable and Content Neutral, meaning that although they can regulate the time, place, and manner of assemblies, they can't regulate these gatherings based on what is being protested.

Free Speech Zones: Although courts can't limit the content of people's speech, they do have the power to limit the time and place of political speech by the creation of "Free Speech Zones." The creation of these zones help to balance the right of free speech with the right to gather and protests and are generally allotted areas into which protesters are confined. Some people see these zones as something that protects the public amidst the protest, while others believe it is a violation of the 1st Amendment.

Assemblies on Private and Public Property

Most demonstrations or assemblies take place in public to reach the public. They are held to protest something and often involve conflict and differing opinions which leads to heightened tensions that could affect bystanders and the area around them. In response to this possibility, the Supreme Court submitted a law that requires permits and notices for public demonstrations. These Right- to- demonstrate laws often lead to controversies about when the police should step in and how much regulation is appropriate.

Gregory v. Chicago, 1969: Comedian Dick Gregory led a police protected march from his city hall all the way to the mayor's house demanding the school's superintendent be fired and de facto segregation in schools be ended. When a group of all white bystanders gathered and became violent, the police ordered that the march disband before anything serious happened. Gregory and those in his march refused to leave and they were all arrested for disorderly conduct. However, all convictions of the demonstrators where overturned by the Court as it was ruled that the bystanders had caused the commotion and the protesters where within the lines of their constitutional rights to petition and assembly.

Recent Cases: Many of the most controversial demonstrations have been held by anti-abortion groups. In a major court case, Madsen v. Women's Health Services, Inc., 1994, The Supreme Court upheld a Florida Judge's order that protesters can not block access to an abortion clinic but must stay 36 feet away from the entrance. In another major case, Hill v. Colorado, 2000, Supreme Court upheld the State law that limits "Sidewalk Counseling" at abortion clinics and places an eight foot buffer around anyone who wishes to enter. These rulings don't deal with content of anti-abortion protests, but controls the where, when, and how.

Private Property: The 1st and 14th Amendment do not give people the right to assembly or petition on private property

Freedom of Association

Both the Right to Assemble and the Right to Petition include a Right of Association: which is the right to join with others to promote political, economic, and social causes. Although this right isn't necessarily outlined in the Constitution, in 1958 court case NAACP v. Alabama, Court ruled that the freedom to associate is apart of the Constitution's guarantee of free expression. A person can not be fired for political associations or required to disclose associations to be licensed to practice law. Despite all this, there is no absolute right of association.

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.