The First Amendment

Bill Neinast

Americans’ rights to assemble and to petition the government are guaranteed in the 1st Amendment of the Constitution  in these words: “Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

To assemble is to gather together in one place for a common purpose.  A petition is to make or present a formal request to an authority with respect to a particular cause. 

Our founding fathers had the foresight to preface those rights with the word “peaceably.”  If that preamble was respected in earlier times, it has been completely forgotten or ignored for several generations.

The birth of massive protests masquerading as peaceful assemblies began with the mini riots at the Democrat National Assembly in Chicago in 1968.  The primary target of those “petitions” or protests was the Vietnam War with some issues of women’s rights thrown in.

Although much of the violence was attributed to the police trying to maintain order, there were a lot of injuries to both demonstrators and police.

In any event, those Chicago riots established a pattern for any group assuming a grievance.  A simple gathering of individuals with a common grievance to present a specific petition or petitions to an official body is now a relic of the past.

Actually, however, there was such a demonstration in Austin Friday.  A group of teachers and parents assembled in front of the Austin Independent School District offices with written petitions that were left on a bulletin board.  Whether those petitions will bear any fruit is to be seen, but at least this was an illustration of what the fathers of our nation had in mind.

Now compare that with the nightly riots in Portland, Oregon, Spokane, Washington, Kenosha, Wisconsin, Louisville, Kentucky, and elsewhere.  What petitions are included in those blocked streets, torched and looted private businesses, rocks and bullets thrown at police, graffiti sprayed on public property, etc.?

Ostensibly, the driving force behind all these on-going riots is the Black Lives Matter organization.

What, though, is the BLM petition?  With the exception of the Briana Taylor tragedy, each riot that the media reports as a peaceful protest is over the police killing of a black criminal.  In every case. The police were either trying to arrest a suspect in the commission of a crime or were responding to a 911 call of an assault in progress.

In every one of these, the national media is very complicit in fueling the mayhem.  The reports are normally on just the last few seconds of the incident with the culprit being shot or forcibly detained.  If an unverified witness can be captured on video shouting “Hands Up!  Don’t Shoot!!,” the reporter will probably get a promotion.

The oddest part, though, is that all of these reports of culprits being killed involve Blacks.  Do the police never arrest someone of another race?  The statistics certainly indicate that there are White criminals also.  For example, in 2017, the police killed 457 Whites and 223 Blacks.  So far this year, the count is 242 Whites and 123 Blacks.

Can any rational person believe that in those 692 killings of White people there is not a single one that could be portrayed in the Michael Brown (Hands Up! Don’t Shoot) or George Floyd scenario. 

The current hot topic is the tragic death of Briana Taylor.  Again the media is roiling the pot with biased reporting.  As initially reported, the police broke into Briana’s apartment with a No-Knock warrant with guns blazing.   Actually, the police had a regular search warrant, knocked loudly on the door and announced they were police (verified by an independent witness), and walked into a hail of bullets.

A grand jury investigated the incident and based on the evidence (not the news accounts) no-billed the officers.  

Notwithstanding the evidence, BLM is still demonstrating and petitioning or demanding for “Justice.”  What would they have done. If the policemen had been tried and acquitted?  What justice would they then demand?

So here’s the perspective.

Peaceful assembly and protests are a thing of the past.  The recent gathering of concerned citizens with written requests of a school board was an anomaly.

There will not be a return to assembly and petition process envisioned by the founding fathers until the media returns to the days of TV’s Dragnet Sergeant Joe Friday with “Just the facts, Ma’am.”



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