From Lesson to Assessment: What are the First Amendment Rights of Assembly and Petition?

From Lesson to Assessment: What are the First Amendment rights of assembly and petition?

Do Now: According to the First Amendment to the Constitution – “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.” This cartoon is from 1909. The photograph is from 1917.

Questions

  1. Who do the two people in the cartoon represent?
  2. Based on the photograph and the year, what change do you think the petitioner is demanding?
  1. The women are assembled in front of the White House. In your opinion, is this a constitutionally protected assembly? Explain.
  2. This campaign started in 1848 with a woman’s rights convention. In your opinion, why did this campaign take so long to achieve success?

A. Should there be limits on assembly? Did New York State violate Nicole Carty’s constitutional rights?

Disorderly Conduct in New York, Penal Law 240.20: A person is guilty of disorderly conduct when, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof:

  • He engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior; or
  • He makes unreasonable noise; or
  • In a public place, he uses abusive or obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture; or
  • Without lawful authority, he disturbs any lawful assembly or meeting of persons; or
  • He obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic; or
  • He congregates with other persons in a public place and refuses to comply with a lawful order of the police to disperse; or
  • He creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose. Disorderly conduct is a violation.

People v. Carty (Nicole) 2016: Defendant was convicted, after a nonjury trial, of two counts of disorderly conduct, arising from her participation in an “Occupy Wall Street” protest. Defendant’s present arguments relating to the legal sufficiency of the evidence, to the extent preserved for appellate review, are lacking in merit. Nor was the verdict against the weight of the evidence. The People’s proof established that defendant obstructed pedestrian traffic (see Penal Law § 240.20) by laying down on a busy Wall Street sidewalk at 4:00 PM on a trading day, side-by-side with other “Occupy” protestors, and refused to comply with a lawful police order to disperse.

B. Did the Gag Rule violate the United States Constitution? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gag_rule#United_States )

  • In 1834 the American Anti-Slavery Society began an antislavery petition drive. Over the next few years the number of petitions sent to Congress increased sharply. In 1837—38, for example, abolitionists sent more than 130,000 petitions to Congress asking for the abolition of slavery in Washington, DC. As antislavery opponents became more insistent, Southern members of Congress were increasingly adamant in their defense of slavery. In May of 1836 the House passed a resolution that automatically “tabled,” or postponed action on all petitions relating to slavery without hearing them. Stricter versions of this gag rule passed in succeeding Congresses. At first, only a small group of congressmen, led by Representative John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, opposed the rule. Adams used a variety of parliamentary tactics to try to read slavery petitions on the floor of the House, but each time he fell victim to the rule. Gradually, as antislavery sentiment in the North grew, more Northern congressmen supported Adams’s argument that, whatever one’s view on slavery, stifling the right to petition was wrong. In 1844 the House rescinded the gag rule on a motion made by John Quincy Adams.

Exit Ticket: In your opinion, what limits, if any, should be placed on the rights of assembly and petition?

The photograph below was taken in front of the White House in 1917.

What were the women demanding?

  1. The women in the picture were campaigning for independence from Great Britain.
  2. The women were demanding an end to slavery in the United States.
  3. The women were demanding the right to join a labor union.
  4. The women were demanding the right to vote.

Why were the women criticized for these protests?

  1. No women had this right anywhere in the United States.
  2. They were criticized because the federal government had already agreed to approve this right.
  3. They were criticized as disloyal because the United States was engaged in World War I.
  4. They weren’t criticized and President Wilson joined their protests.

In 1834 the American Anti-Slavery Society began an antislavery petition drive. Over the next few years the number of petitions sent to Congress increased sharply. In 1837—38, for example, abolitionists sent more than 130,000 petitions to Congress asking for the abolition of slavery in Washington, DC. As antislavery opponents became more insistent, Southern members of Congress were increasingly adamant in their defense of slavery. In May of 1836 the House passed a “gag rule” that automatically “tabled,” or postponed action on all petitions relating to slavery without hearing them. Representative John Quincy Adams, a former President of the United States, argued that whatever one’s view on slavery, stifling the right to petition was wrong.

What was the “gag rule”?

  1. Northern abolitionists wanted to prevent speeches in Congress by Southern supporters of slavery.
  2. Southern supporters of slavery wanted to block anti-slavery petitions from being read in Congress.
  3. When he was President, John Quincy Adams stopped all Congressional debate over slavery.
  4. A bill to end slavery in the United States and prevent a Civil War.

What Constitutional grounds could Adams use to challenge the Congressional gag rule?

  1. The 5thAmendment to the Constitution ensures all people due legal process.
  2. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution ensures the citizen rights of all Americans.
  3. The 13th Amendment outlawed slavery in the United States.
  4. The 1st Amendment protects the right of Americans to petition the government.

Examine documents A and B and then write a persuasive essay of approximately 250-words where you take a position on whether there should be limits on the right to assembly. Refer to at least two, either hypothetical or actual incidents, to support your position.

  1. “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.”
  • Defendant was convicted, after a non-jury trial, of two counts of disorderly conduct, arising from her participation in an “Occupy Wall Street” protest. Defendant’s present arguments relating to the legal sufficiency of the evidence, to the extent preserved for appellate review, are lacking in merit. Nor was the verdict against the weight of the evidence. The People’s proof established that defendant obstructed pedestrian traffic (Penal Law § 240.20) by laying down on a busy Wall Street sidewalk at 4:00 PM on a trading day, side-by-side with other “Occupy” protestors, and refused to comply with a lawful police order to disperse.

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