Declaring that "citizens who wish to gather in the wake of Michael Brown’s tragic death have a constitutional right to do so," a federal judge said Monday that police in Ferguson, Missouri, can’t command peaceful protesters to "keep moving."
U.S. District Judge Catherine D. Perry agreed with lawyers … who argued that forbidding peaceful protesters from gathering in one place violated the constitutional right to freedom of assembly. Amid the unrest in Ferguson following the killing of Brown, an unarmed teenager, police agencies could be heard barking orders at demonstrators to "keep moving" and to stay off the sidewalks. The temporary injunction doesn’t bar police from breaking up unruly or violent protests, because protesters "do not have the right to endanger lives of police officers or other citizens."
There have been too many videos of police officers misbehaving under very questionable circumstances. In places like Ferguson, they have also tried to limit freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. We now have another ruling by a Federal judge that limits police powers.
This ruling is important because police have also tried to limit the rights of abortion protesters. Recently, the Supreme Court has ruled that abortion protesters cannot be kept too far away from abortion clinics. Thus, this ruling continues the the trend of the Supreme Court to rule that free speech and freedom of assembly mean just that. They mean free speech and freedom of assembly.
Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are key freedoms for Americans. Whether we agree or do not agree with protesters, we need to make sure to support those freedoms. If we do not support those freedoms for all, then we should not be surprised if we lose them someday as well.
So, thank you Federal courts for ruling that the First Amendment means what it says.