Monday, October 11, 2010

The community can place reasonable limits on rights

In a September 17 post, it was stated that “If I was on a milk create at Fourth and Main in downtown Royal Oak and made a speech about the upcoming election, I would be arrested for disturbing the peace”. It is also stated that, “If a group of friends planned a gathering in a park nearby to protest the war in Afghanistan, we would be ticketed if we hadn’t received a permit from the city.” Mike Stollenwerk committed that the right to do both are “basic black letter law” rights protect by the First and Fourth amendments of the Constitution.


It is agreed that the right to free speech and assembly would be protected under the Constitution. The arrest or ticket would not be for making the speech or for assembling with my friends. (Of course, both would have to be for political purposes, commercial speech in not protect to the same degree as political.)

The reason that the statements above were made was to illustrate that no right is absolute, including strapping a gun to the waist and walking around in public. In the first case, the Royal Oak police state that if I was standing on the corner impeding pedestrian traffic flow, I would at first be asked “to move along.” That request would having nothing to do with the right of free speech or with the content of the speech. It would be that I was blocking pedestrians. If I refused to “move along” by using the shield of freedom of speech, in the end, I would be arrested.

The gathering in the park to protest the war in Afghanistan has some of the same issues and a few more. It I gathered with a group of friends without checking with the city, there are a number of issues that come up. First, if the little league team from the city was on the schedule to play a game in the park, they would have the first right. By claiming the right to assemble and refusing to move, the police would issue a ticket. Second, if I sat up a stage and used amplified sound to speak to the throng, I would have had to clear it with the city first. Another ticket if I didn’t request a permit from the city and used the right to assemble as a shield.

It was not the intent of the examples about speech and assemble to say we don’t have those rights. It was to illustrate that those rights can’t be used as a shield against all action by the community when its goal is safety and order. I could have used more extreme examples with long standing precedence. Such as yelling fire in a theater or hosting the assembly in the middle of the street. As long as it is not about the content of the speech and the community can demonstrate that people may be harmed or that order is compromised, the community can take action.

The original post was to support Royal Oak’s request to limit the right to open carry of guns. It is a simply request that people not carry their weapons at the Arts, Eats and Beats “assemble”. An assemble, that by many rulings in the courts, the applicant can request control of the people and their action that attend.

As stated at the end of the post, “The request that Royal Oak is making of the state is a reasonable limit on the right to bear arms.”

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