According to Bardes et al, times when people hold a meeting in a certain town in order to air their grievance on issues that affect them such as lack of water, poor infrastructure among others, is simply the means of exercising their right to freedom of assembly (2). Also a group of people may decide to protest against certain ills in the society such as being treated unfairly as it was during the civil rights movement. Those people who conduct meetings and make decisions about not breaking the law are protected by the First Amendment which guarantees the right to hold those meetings. The government cannot prevent participants from gatherings even if the latter are not popular or do not correspond to the main objectives and have hidden reasons behind them.
Freedom of association and freedom of assembly are two different rights although they are both related. An assembly can mean some form of an informal gathering, for instance, people may gather outside government offices in protest over certain measures or legislations. When it involves an association, there is an involvement of an organization that is formal and has a certain cause that it pursues or a group of individuals. An individual is allowed by law to join a certain legal association such as National Rifle Association.
The right to assemble is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States in the First Amendment which prohibits the American Congress from making any laws that limit rights of people to peaceful assembly in the United States. The First Amendment also happens to be a part of the Bill of Rights contained in the ten constitutional amendments. The Bill of Rights became the part of the American Constitution in 1791. It was aimed at preventing the federal government from interfering in the individual rights in any possible manner, including the right to assemble. As for the freedom of association, it is not expressly mentioned, but the Supreme Court of the United States has stated that the freedom of association is the part of the First Amendment.
According to Hudson, the freedom of assembly has its limitations. The government can be allowed to limit the rights only if the situation meets three following conditions. Firstly, the limitation should serve a government’s interest. A good example is a legislation of a law that prohibits the planning and beginning of a violent uprising. Secondly, the content should be neutral. This means that the government cannot limit the right to assembly based on people’s belief, but only on the reason for gathering. Congress can legislate against people’s gathering in order to burn the flag of the United States. Finally, the limitation serves interests of the government.
Over the history, there have been a lot of instances among Americans who are exercising their rights to assembly and protest against certain challenges in the society be it economic, social, or political ones. People in the United States have enjoyed the freedom of assembly for a long time. Some of such instances occurred during the civil rights movement. People from all parts of the country protested against racial discrimination. Americans have exercised their freedom of assembly so as to protest against such subjects as the involvement of the United States in a number of wars such as Vietnam or Iraq Wars. People who assembled either protested or supported gay rights, abortion, economic issues, and certain legislations among others. The American government has always upheld the Constitution and ensured those people in most cases. As long as they are peaceful, the government makes sure that people are protected.
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