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Tug Of War: The State And The Citizen. This Is An Essay About The First Amendment With Regards To Protest.

1284 words - 5 pages

"The first bad feeling I got was when we were walking by one of the lines of officers and I saw a tank. A real tank! It was scary. I never thought practicing free speech would be so intimidating."--Tiffany Williams, protester. The United States of America is a country renowned globally for its many freedoms. According to the U.S. Constitutions, Americans have rights on top of rights. However, do Americans always have rights to their rights? Does the Constitution really have any value--or is it just words that look good on paper? To what degree are the Constitution and its amendments just a propaganda tool for the congress and branches of government to control Americans? Indeed, a dualism exists between the representation of the law by state and freedoms for its citizens. Through examination of the First Amendment to the Constitution with focus on the right of freedom of speech and right to peaceably assemble in relation to protesting and the events surrounding the recent FTAA protest in Miami, Florida, an argument in favor of protest in correlation with the First Amendment will be formed.The First Amendment is by far the most popular of all amendments to the Constitution. Ask any American and he or she can answer he or she has the right to free speech. However, there is more to the First Amendment than freedom of speech. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof: or abridging the freedom of speech, of the press: or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances." In other words congress has no right to make any law that opposes the right of an individual to speak out or the right of the people to group together peaceably. Therefore, there can be no law restricting a group of people from peacefully protesting against the government. During such protests, however, the people are often treated harshly by officers, and protest usually result in substantial injuries and even death (Klein 2002).One such occasion where protesters where allegedly treated by police with excessive force, occurred on November 20 of 2003 in Miami, Florida. Demonstrators gathered in opposition of the Free Trade Area of the Americans (FTAA). Shortly before the protest, the city of Miami had passed an ordinance making public gatherings of more than seven people unlawfully assembled for more than one-half hour outside the structure for a "common purpose" (Hermes). A civil lawsuit was filed on February 4, 2004 in federal court to challenge the ordinance (Hermes). The hundreds of protesters that showed up in disagreement to FTAA were, in turn, unlawfully assembled. Most activists were reportedly peaceful--standing with arms locked and displaying peace signs. Others resorted to the burning of boxes. According to officers at the scene, some of the demonstrators threw unknown white liquid at their shields. They were met with extreme hostility from the officers....

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