Thursday, January 28, 2010

Our Rights As Americans (Part III): The Right to Peaceably Assemble

My Fellow Americans,

Given the state of the current political climate, and the fact that President Obama needed to remind us once again how he wants to ram health care and cap and trade down our throats, I feel one of our most important rights as citizens of the United States is the right to peaceably assemble.

I want to explain to you today why this right is necessary as part of The Refounding Father's series on "Our Rights As Americans."

The year 2009 alone was a great example of why this First Amendments right is critical to the fabric of this country.  Tea Party activists (photo: Google) gathered together all over this country -- even on Capitol Hill -- to protest a government takeover of our health care system, the stimulus package, and other unfavorable policies put in place by the Obama administration.  No matter what the mainstream media will have you believe, overall, these marches and protests were carried out peacefully and with little to no violence.

According to David L. Hudson, Jr., research attorney at the First Amendment Center, the "freedom of assembly has protected individuals espousing myriad viewpoints" throughout our history.  Hudson continues by saying, "Striking workers, civil rights advocates, anti-war demonstrators and Ku Klux Klan marchers have all taken to the streets and sidewalks in protest or in support of their causes. Sometimes these efforts have galvanized public support or changed public perceptions. Imagine a civil rights movement without the March on Washington or the women's suffrage movement without ranks of long-skirted, placard-carrying suffragists filling city streets."

As you can see by Mr. Hudson's explanation, the beauty of the right to peaceably assemble is that everybody's "assembly" is protected.  While most people who would object to having a KKK rally going on as they walk by, Hudson says that, "First Amendment freedoms ring hollow if government officials can repress expression that they fear will create a disturbance or offend. Unless there is real danger of imminent harm, assembly rights must be respected."  So, despite the distasteful nature of such gatherings by hate groups, those types of rallies are included in this right -- as they should be.

Now, for those of you who may not understand this right or disagree with it, let's see what the alternative would look like.  And, yes, I will be going a bit extreme on this.  Then again, if we were to go down the path of socialism or communism, this example may not be far off.

What do I mean?  Well, do you remember Tiananmen Square?  No? 

Let me tell you what happened -- with help from Wikipedia of course: "The Tiananmen Square (photo: Wikipedia) protests of 1989...were a series of demonstrations in and near Tiananmen Square in Beijing in the [People's Republic of China] PRC beginning on [April 14, 1989]. Led mainly by students and intellectuals, the protests occurred in a year that saw the collapse of a number of communist governments around the world." 

The protests were in response to the death of "pro-democracy and anti-corruption official, Hu Yaobang, whom protesters wanted to mourn. By the eve of Hu's funeral, 100,000 people had gathered at Tiananmen square...The demonstrations centered on Tiananmen Square, in Beijing, but large-scale protests also occurred in cities throughout China, including Shanghai, which remained peaceful throughout the protests."

According to Wikipedia, "The movement lasted seven weeks, from Hu's death on [April 15] until tanks cleared Tiananmen Square on [June 4]. In Beijing, the resulting military response to the protesters by the PRC government left many civilians and military personnel charged with clearing the square of the dead or severely injured[citation needed]. The number of deaths is not known, however, estimates include the initial Red Cross figure of roughly 3,000."

What was worse was that "[f]ollowing the conflict, the government conducted widespread arrests of protesters and their supporters, cracked down on other protests around China, banned the foreign press from the country and strictly controlled coverage of the events in the PRC press. Members of the Party who had publicly sympathized with the protesters were purged, with several high-ranking members placed under house arrest..."

The international community blasted the government of the PRC for using military force on the protesters -- and rightfully so.  And to do such a thing -- to your OWN people no less -- is utterly despicable.  This is exactly why I am glad the Founding Fathers had the foresight to include a right like this in our Constitution.  I firmly believe it is something we should be thankful for -- not just because it's something so embedded in us that we don't have to think about it -- but also because we don't have to live in the 1989 version of the PRC.

Have you attended a Tea Party Rally yet?  If not, you really should go.  Most Conservatives or Republicans have never protested -- that's usually something left to the Democrats for reasons I won't get into.  But, I attended rallies in Philadelphia on July 4, 2009 and in Washington, D.C. on September 12, 2009.  Honestly, I don't think I've ever felt so empowered.  The energy given off at these things -- especially the one in D.C. on 9/12 -- is just amazing.  You really feel like you're a part of something.  It makes you feel like -- although you may not feel like you matter individually -- together we were heard that day.  All you have to do is look what happened in Massachusetts on Jan. 19 to understand the full impact of the Tea Party movement.

Now, that is the right to assemble in action.  May we never stop valuing this right or forget its importance in the history of our great country.

God Bless the United States of America.

No comments:

Post a Comment