Posted 10 years ago on Dec. 23, 2011, 1:17 p.m. EST by TechJunkie
from Miami Beach, FL
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
The common wisdom among Occupiers seems to be that the First Amendment makes it illegal for the government to restrict speech in any way. That is simply not true.
Some people like to point at the text of the First Amendment and then pretend like that's the end of the story. They come up with their own interpretation, and then they conclude that cops are violating the First Amendment by enforcing laws that require permits for protests, or any other restriction. This mentality ignores the reality of how our legal system works.
A statute is not the end of the story in law, it's the beginning of the story. After a law is written, the law must be interpreted. Individual citizens don't get to interpret laws in whatever self-serving way that they see fit. Our legal system places the job of interpreting law in the hands of the courts. One court ruling on a law becomes precedent for subsequent court rulings, and through this process of stare decisis, the case law determines the official, legal, universally-objective interpretation of the original statute.
This process is vital because the laws as they're written are often too vague to be implemented, and so the courts have to interpret the specifics in order for law enforcement to have clear policies. One simple example of why this is vital is that the First Amendment says that "Congress" shall pass no law, it doesn't say anything about your local city government. A fundamentalist interpretation might conclude that state and local governments are not bound by the First Amendment. It's a good thing that it doesn't work like that, right?
Cops are not violating the First Amendment when they arrest people for not having permits for a protest. They're simply enforcing the law as interpreted through centuries of case law. Self-serving interpretations of the First Amendment that ignore how our legal system really works don't change that fact.