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What Does the Right to Assemble Cover?

The First Amendment doesn’t protect violence.

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The right to gather is one of the most important rights we have, and it’s protected by the First Amendment. This right can be used for people to meet and protest things they don’t like – or ask for changes they want to see.

The First Amendment protects citizens’ right “peaceably to assemble,” as well as the right to ask the government for change. It states:

“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.”

America has recently seen violent protests and riots, but this is not protected in the Constitution – since it only protects peaceful gatherings.

Even though Americans have the right to meet and protest in public, courts have said the government can restrict the time, place, and method of peaceful assembly.

Who Decides Our Rights?

The First Amendment only protects the right to gather in public. On private property, the owner has the right to say who can and can’t be there.

Even in most cities, permits are needed for protests.

If the police say that an event must end and people have to leave, then those who stay could get arrested. Usually, protests are only stopped to prevent violence and to make sure traffic, businesses, and emergency services aren’t blocked.

Even with all these restrictions, the right to assemble is one of the most important rights in the U.S. Constitution.

Jose Backer, General Assignment Reporter, is a graduate of St. Michael's College and is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Political Science. Born and raised in Southern California, he currently resides in the Pasadena area.

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