Americans have the most freedom of any country in the world. We can criticize our own government and even protest against it, and there’s one document that protects our right to protest: The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution is one of the most important and most powerful human rights laws that you will ever learn about, but that doesn’t mean you can protest however you want. There are rules!
Unfortunately, a lot of Americans either don’t fully understand the constitution, and this is causing a huge problem in our society. We should know our rights and the rights of others as well. Among these rights is the ability to protest against something that we see as unjust and the rights of law enforcement officers to arrest those who abuse their own rights.
Therefore, we should know how to publicly protest peacefully without engaging in senseless violence or disruptive behaviors, as seen below. I will cover what rights we have and what rights we don’t have when it comes to taking it to the streets.
America has experienced protests before, but in its most recent years, America has seen protests against the actions of police officers. Walking into the middle of a busy highway or railroad, or causing a riot in a major city is not only illegal, but it is also dangerous and disruptive to the public. People from around the world were questioning what was going on in America.
I’ll use my teaching experiences as an example. Some students believed that the First Amendment allowed them to curse at the faculty or that the Fifth Amendment saves them from having to tell the teacher that they beat up a student. It has been abundantly clear that some Americans are misinterpreting our laws and constitutional rights, and this needs to be quickly addressed and corrected!
For those of you who are currently studying the constitution for school, work, or to get your citizenship, here are some guidelines that you should know. The rest of us should continue to study the constitution and never forget our rights.
Know Your Rights and the Rights of Law Enforcement!
Too often do we hear the phrase, “know your rights if you get arrested,” but we never hear about the law enforcement’s rights. Below is an explanation of how the constitution protects both its citizens and its law enforcement.
1) The Constitution is the supreme law of the United States.
Nothing is above the constitution. State and local laws can vary from one another, and federal laws apply to everyone living within the United States. However, neither federal, state, nor local laws are above constitution. Unfortunately, the system isn’t perfect. There are some cases in which the constitution wasn’t upheld. For example, take the illegal action of Japanese-American internment camps in WWII, or a local community/law enforcement not allowing colored people to vote.
2) It is the source of all branches of government: executive, judicial, and legislative.
The Constitution is divided into three different administrative branches (executive, judicial, and legislative), and neither branch holds more power over the other. This is referred to as checks and balances. Each branch of power can check the work of the other branches to make sure that no one is abusing power. This makes the power balanced between the three branches of government.
3) The United States Constitution consists of the Preamble, 7 Articles of Confederation, and 27 Amendments.
The first ten amendments make up the Bill of Rights. There have been 17 amendments added since the original ten amendments of 1791. The last amendment was implemented in 1992.
4) Your rights and the rights of law enforcement during a protest.
The First Amendment covers the freedom of speech, press, assembly, petition, and it also covers marching, picketing, and pamphleteering. However, the First Amendment doesn’t allow you to protest anywhere; it just gives you the right to do so. You will have to look at your city and state laws to know when and where they allow you to protest. You will most likely need a permit from your local city in order to protest legally.
The Fourth Amendment requires police to have a search warrant before they are legally allowed to search you, your home, or anything that you privately own. Police officers are not legally allowed to seize any of your possessions, unless you either give them permission to do so, or if they have a search warrant, arrest warrant, or probable cause that an individual has committed a crime. That’s right. If the police either believe that you broke the law or saw you break the law, then they have the right to arrest you and search both you and your property without your permission.
How Can I Legally Express Myself?
The First Amendment allows you to speak your mind and protest, but keep in mind that there are rules! So long as people have a permit issued by the town and are following its procedures, they can say whatever they want during a protest.
Local laws usually require you to go to the town hall and get a permit to protest at a specific time and place. Remember, local laws are there to protect its citizens. Filing for a permit to protest allows you to have the police to protect you while you are protesting.
If you don’t want to get a permit, then it restricts you of what you’re allowed to do. You have the right to protest without a permit so long as you protest on public property, you are not disruptive to the public, and so long as you are not trespassing onto private property. Without a permit, you will have to stay in a public place, like a park or on the sidewalks, and you have to make sure that you’re not interfering with traffic or local businesses.
In addition, make sure that you dress and act appropriately! Don’t wear anything that hides your face or what you could be carrying. You want to be as transparent as possible for law enforcement. This will ease the mind of everyone, especially the police. Also, don’t bring anything that looks like a weapon, even if it’s legal in some states. The police get nervous when they see a masked person holding something that looks like a weapon. Who can blame them, especially with all the shootings that have taken place recently? If you are protesting in a safe and non disruptive manner, then the police won’t need to throw gas grenades at you.
The next time someone asks you if you want to participate in one of those illegal protests, you might be better off just posting something on social media instead. Remember that if you’re going to protest, then protest responsibly!
Let’s Hear From You!
Have you ever protested something? What did you protest? Why did you protest? Where did you protest? How many protesters were there? What was the outcome? Have you ever been arrested while protesting? Did you acquire the correct permits, and did you protest in an appropriate manner? Would you do it all again if you had to?
I’ve never protested anything such as demanding the company to raise the minimum wage at a minimum wage job. What would have been the point? I used to work at a movie theater making minimum wage ($6.75), and both my co-workers and I never protested to make more money. Sure, we asked for raises because we thought that we earned it, but we never would have protested to make double that! That would have been ridiculous.
“Mr. Manager, can you give us almost double the minimum wage? No? Why not? You can’t afford it? What about a small raise? No? Well, we’re giving you our two weeks notice.” And that was the end of it. Off we went to more important things like college or a better paying job. It was that simple. It drives me nuts on how some employees at fast food restaurants today want $15 per hour. I’m sorry, but in my opinion, no one deserves to make that much money at a fast food restaurant. I’ve seen teachers, CNAs, EMTs, and other noble careers earn less than that, and they are either making a difference or saving people’s lives. What are you doing to earn $15? I’m not saying that you’re lazy, I’m simply asking why should companies pay you more money than other professions?
If your only priority in life is to make more money while working at a fast food restaurant, then I strongly encourage you to reevaluate your priorities in life. Seriously. Where’s your pride?! Where is that burning desire to better yourself? To be someone? To make a difference? Those jobs were supposed to be a stepping stone to the next big thing. That is all.