The First Amendment specifies that “Congress” shall make no law interfering with the right of citizens “peaceably to assemble.” The Bill of Rights of the State of New York contains no such provision. I have no legal training but I deplore admitting that it sounds to me as if the city police of New York faces no constitutional impediment when it orders the “Occupy” movement to stop camping on that private park where they have been for weeks.
I deplore this reading of the law because I believe, by instinct, and possibly by a common misreading of the Constitution, that the right of all and any Americans to assemble is central, absolute and all too often stepped on by local authorities and by petty tyrants. All too often, I see locally or, indirectly, everywhere through the national press, the nuisances crowds create used to interfere radically with what I take to be the right of assembly.
Whenever this happens, it disturbs me that many of my fellow conservatives seem to buy the authorities’ reasoning. Here, locally, in Santa Cruz, the reasons local power gives to begin dismantling the “Occupy” encampment are fire risk and public health. The way I understand it, this does not make moral sense to me. I don’t like the “Occupy” crowd, I have expressed why in previous postings.
But my dislikes have nothing to do with my understanding of the guarantees under which we live. Or they should have nothing to do with this understanding. Continue reading