Tuesday, July 1, 2008

What about the first amendment, Hick?

There's a Middletown connection to the current controversy surrounding the Democratic National Convention in Denver scheduled for September.

John Hickenlooper is a Wesleyan grad, and still has several friends in town (some of who traveled to Denver to campaign for Hick) who is now Denver's very popular mayor.

Trouble is, the city of Denver, along with the US government, in the form of the Secret Service, is setting up fenced-in, chicken-wired "free-speech" zones of the variety George Bush favors, for protesters, at the convention.

While the constitutional crisis of the moment seems to be the Supreme Court's upending of the second amendment, it's the first amendment that seems at risk here. The first amendment guarantees freedom of speech and the right to peaceful assembly, without restrictions. That means, and Lord knows I'm not a constitutional scholar, that if citizens want to assemble anywhere on public property for peaceful protest, it is their right. And that seems totally at odds with the "free-speech zones" at the convention. Ironically, in a way, the assembled Dems will be gathering to defend the Constitution, by choosing a candidate for president. The ACLU agrees, and is fighting the fencing in court.

I say, if you want to prove you believe in the great document which frames our country, invite the protestors to the floor of the convention for the opportunity to raise their voices as loudly as the Democratic delegates wearing the funny hats.

As for Hickenlooper, he could demonstrate his own regard for peaceful assembly by insisting that all public areas around the convention site remain open for peaceful public protest.

UPDATE: Hickenlooper has designated a daily "parade route" for peaceful protests, although it is proscribed, and stationary protesters will still be consigned to a pen.

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