Protest Politics

The First Amendment guarantees the right to assemble, but in recent years that principle has come under increased scrutiny. Whether it be state legislators who want to mitigate consequences for drivers who “accidentally” hit demonstrators or attorneys in the District of Columbia attempting to indict journalists and nurses for rioting they were not a part of, the protest scene in the United States is beginning to resemble the street battles that took place in the Vietnam War era. And as organized political movements have drawn millions for the Women’s March in 2016 or the Families Belong Together March in 2018, the politics of protest are not likely to mellow anytime soon. Does the state ever have a legitimate interest in restricting — or even punishing — protests?

Reflection Questions

  1. Are there limits to acceptable protest that can be widely agreed upon, without violating the letter or the spirit of the First Amendment?
  2. Have state legislatures crossed the line of constitutionality in their efforts to regulate protest, favoring property and commerce over speech?
  3. Do efforts to assure civility sometimes interfere with Free Speech?



The entries on the Free Speech Tracker can be classified into many themes, including the 12 listed below; most entries relate to several different themes. Click on a box to bring up a list of entries related to that theme, or select two or more to narrow the list down. You may also click or unclick the categories below this box to make the lists specific to Education, Civil Society, Government, or any combination of the three.



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