If someone is arrested for disrupting an event, is that a violation of their First Amendment Rights?

Posted on May 20, 2011


The Myth

A favorite tactic for progressives is to use loud protesters to shout down speakers and disrupt gatherings such as Tea Party rallies, town hall meetings, speeches by people they do not agree with, and even a very large church service.  Because they get dragged away from the event by security they almost always claim that their First Amendment Rights were violated.

The Truth

Disrupting events and shouting down speakers is an abuse of the God given right freedom of speech therefore it is not protected by the First Amendment.  The police, or security, at these events has every right to remove these protestors.

The Facts

Freedom of speech is one of those inalienable rights Thomas Jefferson writes about in the Declaration of Independence.  This right is not listed in that document but our founding knew it is an integral part of liberty. When Thomas Jefferson wrote about inalienable rights and lists life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness he was discussing Natural Rights and the philosophy of Natural Law

 Another term for Natural Law is God’s Law. In the 18th century, religious people such as our founding fathers did not use God in normal conversation. They used code words such as Natural in the place of God. Our legal system,  is built upon the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Both are based on Natural Law

 According to Natural Law, God grants us our rights directly. Because they are given to us by God governments cannot take them away. This is what is meant by inalienable

 With all of our rights come responsibilities. We are free to exercise our Natural Rights as we wish as long as we do not interfere with the Natural Rights of anyone else.  

 When protesters shout down the speaker and disrupt the meeting they are interfering with the speaker who is exercising his freedom of speech . There is a corollary to freedom of speech. The corollary is the right to listen to whatever you want to listen to. The audience attending the event is there to listen to the speaker. When the protesters disrupt the event they are violating the rights of everyone who is there to listen to the speakers and enjoy the event. Removing the protesters from the event is most definitely not a violation of the protestors freedom of speech.

The Proof

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.  
Thomas Jefferson

 John Locke discusses this topic in detail in “Two Treatises of Government”

William Blackstone discusses this in “Commentaries on the Laws of England”

Charles de Montesquieu discusses this in “Spirits of the Laws”

George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson all discussed the relationship between rights and responsibilities in many of their wrings. It was a common theme amongst the founding fathers.

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