Since the Occupy Wall Street protests began in mid September, over 4,000 have been arrested for a wide variety of crimes, including arson, assault, rape, vandalism and fraud.
Protesters naturally complain that their First Amendment right to free speech is being stripped away.
But the First Amendment does not guarantee the right to commit crime.
“It’s always wrong for one group, in the name of free speech, to infringe on the rights of others,” Debra J. Saunders wrote.
And that is exactly what Occupy Wall Street does – every single day.
It’s not the silly signs or the stupid masks; it’s the demand that they – and they alone – be granted cart blanche to do whatever they want, whenever they want, and to whomever they want.
Sorry, but the First Amendment does not give the right to defecate on police cars, public sidewalks or entrances to banks.
It doesn’t give the right to commit acts of domestic terrorism, and it certainly doesn’t allow for assault and rape – all acts committed by Occupy protesters.
Protesters claim the First Amendment gives them the right to take over public parks in perpetuity for the sole purpose of pitching tents for months on end.
“Even protected speech is not equally permissible in all places and at all times,” said New York Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman.
“You can’t evict an idea whose time has come,” said protester Hans Shan, decrying the order.
But no one is asking to evict “an idea,” only that the law be obeyed.
But protesters seemingly do not care.
The Minnesota ACLU, for example, filed a lawsuit against Hennepin County on behalf of OccupyMPLS, claiming that rules restricting the use of chalk, electricity and tents are unconstitutional. According to the Star-Tribune, the suit “also asks that officials stop giving trespass notices to protesters who build temporary shelters or use chalk to express their views.”
Not only do they want to do whatever they want – rules be damned – they want hard-working taxpayers to pay for it as well.
An article at Voice of America notes:
In fact, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Douglas once wrote that a function of free speech was to “invite dispute” and could best do that by “[creating] dissatisfaction” and even “[stirring] people to anger.”
But the article also notes limits to that “speech”:
First Amendment expert and attorney Floyd Abrams says that the Occupy demonstrators are within their rights to protest. But he cautions that the amendment does not necessarily protect the ways they are going about it. “In a situation like this where you’re talking about a mass of people taking over a large area of space and basically saying, ‘this is now ours, not the rest of the city’s, this is now ours to keep and to build and to live in,’ I don’t think the First Amendment goes there,” Abrams said.
Abrams adds that protesters cannot legally shut down businesses, “block roads or commandeer city resources to broadcast their message.”
Nor can they commit acts of arson or domestic terrorism.
“There are some limits that can be placed on where you speak and how much you speak in a particular area because other people want to speak also or other people want to sleep or do other things,” he added.
The First Amendment simply 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.”
The Occupy Wall Street protesters have a right – like everyone else – to gather and make their views known. They do not have a right, however, to flaunt the law, terrorize businesses, or commit crime.
Sorry, Occupiers, the First Amendment does not give you the right to destroy private property or do whatever you want, whenever you want to do it.
“The First Amendment is not our only law. It is a law and it is a significant limitation, but it doesn’t answer every question,” Abrams added.
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