"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."
That's the first one, in case anyone had forgotten, which it seems most of us have. Over 100 protesters were arrested outside the White House yesterday, when protesting war, and voicing their support for Julian Assange. The police were called and when protesters ignored their requests to disband, the protesters were arrested. While in all likelihood none of them will serve serious time, they will have to pay a $100 fine and of course, their rights were once again trampled upon.
The right to assemble, freedom of speech...they sound like such lofty and remote ideals of a bygone age, but they are in fact our rights, our supposed rights, protecting us from a monarchic or dictatorial government.
For those of you who haven't experienced the joys of standing up on a soap box in the crisp winter air, denouncing the ills of a government you democratically elected to do something quite the opposite of what it is doing, allow me offer up an absurd fact of protest life. When organizing your protest, along with markers, poster board and flags, you'll have to factor in a "Protest Permit."
This allows you to speak your mind, in a protesting sort of way. These permits are granted by the state and they can freely deny you if they feel that your protest could be a "security risk." Well, what constitutes a security risk? Well, there aren't any solid rules as to what a security risk really is. Well, that seems kinda fucked. Well, it is.
There are more cases of these permits being an infringement on the first amendment than there are innocent people in Texas jails. Martin Luther King Jr. is the happy recipient of a few. I myself have gotten one.
Aside from the clearly jaded security risk issue, there are perhaps even bigger issues if you do get a permit.
First of all, permits are by-in-large not granted in the more populated areas of a city. They tend to be allowed in places where there are mostly businesses or not enough space for large groups to congregate. Secondly, they close off the area, making it impossible and unlikely for people not already going to the protest, to hear or care about it. So, basically, what you get with the permit is the allowance for you and your friends to sit in a secluded area and bitch for an allotted amount of time.
Of course, you could do this at home and save some time, migraines and money, but then the state wouldn't get any money or satisfaction from your wasted efforts.
The places that need protesters in them: streets, crowded areas, malls, parks, schools, inner cities, are off limits. How can people expect to assemble if they're not allowed? And how is it not an infringement of rights if someone can pre-emptively determine that you are a safety risk when all you're asking to do is protest idiocy with fellow concerned citizens. Unless you write on your proposal that you intend to fillet virgins and burn poor people, I don't really see how they can make that call.
So, here we sit in this catch 22...how can we protest that we aren't allowed to protest? How can we organize and promote change when it's too "dangerous" for us to get together and do so? How can we say that we live in a free society when we aren't free to openly discuss and protest that society? How can we afford to accept these infringements if we consider ourselves US citizens?
But hey, it's perfectly fine to own a shit ton of guns for no reason...hooray!