The Right to Protest?

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Amendment I – 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.

A lot of things tend to bother me. None moreso, though, then people’s blatant abuse of our First Amendment rights afforded to us in the Bill of Rights. On my way home from work today, I was listening to NPR (FYI, it was All Things Considered). They were discussing the Democratic National Convention and the riots that went on during last nights proceedings. First off, enough is enough. People get pissed off about the simplest things. It’s one thing to protest and picket peacefully, but when people start vandalizing and throwing rocks and getting into fights – a line has to be drawn.

According to CNN.com six people were arrested after a group of nearly 100 demonstrators started launching rocks and bottles towards police monitoring a concert/protest (courtesy of everyone’s fave Rage Against the Machine). Well, apparently, people want to complain now about how the police handled themselves – as if the demonstrators shouldn’t have to take responsibility for breaking the law, causing general mayhem, etc. When are people going to take responsibility for their actions? If you’re going to be destructive, you deserve to be pepper sprayed and shot at with rubber bullets. A bit much? Sure. But the police need to take whatever precautions necessary to protect the general populace from these mobs of protesters. If this includes throwing tear gas or firing rubber bullets into a crowd, I’ve got to say that I agree with it. We have police for this very reason – to protect us from those that would break the law.

According to CNN, “protesters argued they were not given enough time to comply with police demands. ‘There was no way for people who wanted to leave to get out of that event last night,’ said Jim Lafferty, head of the left-wing National Lawyers Guild. Lafferty said he saw police club people who were scrambling to get out of their way and shoot them in the back with rubber bullets as they fled.”

My reply? They shouldn’t have been doing what they were doing in the first place. Meanwhile, you’ve got all of these ACLU lawyers monitoring the situation just waiting to sue LA Police for doing their jobs. How can they condone wanton destructive violence? How can they not expect the police to react with force? The ACLU threatens litigation if people aren’t provided an area to exercise their First Amendment Rights… If you’ll read carefully the First Amendment above, you’ll see that people are afforded the right to peaceful assembly.

Know why we have problems like this? Because people are disinterested in the political system until it affects them. Wrong answer. People need to get out there and vote. You want change, get involved. Protesting does nothing but disrupt the normal processes of life. Sure, it might deliver a message for a moment or two, but your decisions as an involved citizen can change things for much, much longer. Don’t like George W. Bush or Al Gore as a viable president? Then vote for someone else! Vote for Ralph Nader or Pat Buchanan or someone else! Just be sure to VOTE. It’s sad to think that less then 50 percent of the population in the United States is voting for our leaders… The more that people get involved, the better things will eventually be. This is supposed to be a democracy, isn’t it?

The First Amendment only goes so far. If you want to protest, protest. But don’t let it get out of hand. If you want to see change, get involved. Work towards changing the system.

That’s my two cents, and I’m stickin’ to it.