Right of Assembly

The first amendment to the Constitution is part of the Bill of rights.  Within that amendment is the following words, “Congress shall make no law — abridging — the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  Let’s look at a bit of history.

Shays’ Rebellion, the post-Revolutionary clash between New England farmers and merchants, threatened a civil war and exposed the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation as a mechanism for federal governance.  It led to the Constitution of the United States.  A close look at the language of the first amendment shows the impact of this rebellion on those who wrote the Constitution.

First, the amendment clearly states the importance of peaceable assembly.  This is something the OWS protestors, and for that matter many political leaders on the left, have forgotten.  Your right of action ends at the tip of my nose, and a violent assembly is not constitutionally protected and should not be supported politically.

Second, the amendment is limited to petitioning the government.  Essentially, the rights of a protest group, and that includes the OWS group, is governed by interaction with the government.   Not surprisingly, the law-abiding people of New York City have had it with week after week of disruption and the failure of elected officials to deal with crime and abuse.

Third, the amendment focuses on redress of grievances.  The OWS mob may be seeking a redress of grievances, but they are grieving against private businesses and individuals.  Since the first amendment is focused on restraint of government, then, like the Tea Party movement, the request for redress of grievances ought to be focused on elected politicians not restaurant owners, bank employees, and the Americans in general.

Essentially, if the Constitution has any meaning, the Bill of Rights must apply to every American citizen not just to the OWS protestors who are now acting out at the expense of everyone else.  Frankly, the OWS mob has no constitutional mandate for its behavior.  It is a chaotic and anarchistic mob not unlike those who perpetrated the French Revolution.

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