Where should protesters protest?

Let’s start with the First Amendment, which says,

“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 is pretty basic. In Russia, calling the “special military operation in Ukraine” a war, or suggesting maybe it isn’t a good idea, or complaining about the soldiers’ bodies coming home, can get you 15 years in prison. This says our rulers can’t do that to us. (Actually, they can, unless someone stops them. The Constitution is only a toothless piece of paper unless we all agree to abide by it.)

It doesn’t say where you can peaceably assemble to petition the government for redress of grievances. And it says nothing about the rules for “petitioning” private parties, although presumably the right to peaceably assemble still applies, just not on their front porch (i.e., you have to stay on public property).

Republicans probably don’t enjoy being unpopular, but by all appearances, would rather be a reviled ruling class than a powerless minority party. Knowing this will provoke public backlash, they don’t like dissent (except when they’re doing it, e.g., by harassing abortion clinic staff and patients, driving cars over protesters, and rioting at election offices and the U.S. Capitol).

For example, they’ve passed laws against “desecrating” the flag (which includes flying it upside down), which have been struck down by the courts, and more recently Florida Republicans have tried to criminalize the following protest activities: (1) Blocking roadways, (2) defacing public monuments, (3) “mob intimidation” (which can mean anything they want it to, I suppose). Their law also makes local authorities civilly liable to riot victims if the cops didn’t shoot the rioters, or something like that. (Details here.) The ACLU says it’s unconstitutional, but that probably depends on whether you get a Trump judge.

Protests made big news after a Minneapolis cop, subsequently convicted of murder, strangled a black arrestee in broad daylight in front of witnesses, and millions of people took to the streets. These protesters were mostly peaceful, but Trump wanted them shot. The military refused. (See story here.)

Then an unknown person (or persons) leaked a draft Supreme Court decision based on the thinking of a 13th-century English jurist who hanged witches. The belief is that five justices, a majority, including two occupying seats stolen from the Democrats, will sign this thing or something like it. That pissed off a lot of people, and a couple hundred of them (including the young lady in the photo below) showed up at one of the usurper’s home. They stayed on the sidewalk. (See story here.)

That was legal, even if uncouth, and no doubt nerve-rattling to the occupants (who include two teenage daughters) and maybe the neighbors, too. Very soon, the homes of two more justices were being picketed, too; and the Senate wasted no time providing 24-hour police protection for all the justices. (See story here.) The neighbors, presumably, are on their own. They should be more careful who they live next door to.

Back in 2016, Ivanka Trump was hassled on a JetBlue flight by another passenger, who was kicked off the flight (see story here). This probably was unfair; we don’t get to choose our parents. In 2018, Mitch McConnell and his wife were out at a restaurant when they were hassled by another customer; it’s unclear whether he was asked to leave (see story here.) In 2021, Tucker Carlson was berated in a Montana fly fishing shop by a customer (see story here), and Carlson says he doesn’t eat out much because someone is always telling him he sucks (see story here), which he does.

What are the limits of petitioning for redress of your grievances? Are our rulers, other powerful people, and public figures in general fair game, wherever they are?

There are trespassing laws, of course. And codes of conduct, written and unwritten (“e.g., No shirt, no shoes, no service”). In general, I’m against this kind of thing, whether it’s peaceful, lawful, protected speech on public property or not, because I’d rather live in a civil society than an uncivil one.

So, I do not approve of this. But the young lady in the photo below does have a point. And I’m not sure how to answer her.

Those who sow the wind may reap the whirlwind. And I guess that’s on them.

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