The country has monitored the events in Ferguson, MO very closely. While the investigation into the shooting and its appropriateness are ongoing, one thing is clear – the authorities in Ferguson have done a terrible job in following First Amendment Law. The cornerstone of our democracy is the right of the people to peacefully assemble and the right of a free press to report without restriction. Both of these rights have been violated by a police force that appears more as military occupiers.
State of Emergency and First Amendment Law
The first night of these protests brought looting to the area, causing Governor Jay Nixon to declare a State of Emergency in Ferguson. This led to the imposition of a curfew and an increased crackdown on protestors and police alike. While the looting is inexcusable, there is no doubt that the vast majority of the people on the streets of Ferguson have been exercising their right to protest what they see as unfair police practices. Likewise, the press are exercising their right (and doing their job) in bringing this story to the world.
Everyone should be concerned about the response to the protestors in Ferguson. While police certainly have an obligation to protect property and arrest those breaking the law, the answer is not to suspend First Amendment Law for a small municipality in St. Louis County. Instead, it should be dealt with problems as they arise instead of issuing blanket decrees that deny everyone their rights. Suspending the rule of law is never the answer to dealing with citizens.
Bruce Fein has been a champion for First Amendment Law for more than 40 years. He believes that the fundaments of free speech and free press are vital to a healthy democracy. If your First Amendment rights have been violated, contact Bruce Fein today to begin fighting back.