Protests a good lesson on the First Amendment | AspenTimes.com
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Protests a good lesson on the First Amendment

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads: “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 millions of residents of the United States – some citizens, some legal residents, many undocumented residents – who walked off their jobs and out of their classrooms to fill the streets Monday gave us all a textbook example of exactly how the First Amendment is supposed to work.Monday’s demonstrations ranged from relatively small gatherings like the 2,000 or so who showed up at Sayre Park in Glenwood Springs to massive protests like the estimated 400,000 people who marched in Los Angeles.Here in the valley, the economic effects of the protests were mixed. Some restaurants had to close for the day. Supermarkets were unusually quiet because of the economic boycott that accompanied the work stoppage. One way or another, businesses managed to get through the day.Around the nation, other regions were affected more profoundly. Vegetables went unpicked in the fields Southern California, imports stacked up at ports on both coasts, entire industries were hobbled in large cities.This combination of work stoppage, economic boycott and massive political protests were intended to make a political point in the rancorous political debate over immigration. Exercising the First Amendment “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievance” was probably the most effective way for immigrants with little political clout to get their point across.Regardless of how you might feel about the emotionally charged issue of immigration, we can all be glad that the May 1 protests (and counterprotests) were generally conducted responsibly, that they made a political point without inciting violence or other ugliness.That’s the way our system is supposed to work, and we should all be proud when it works as well as it did Monday.


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