Don’t believe the political hype! Constitutional rights have limits

Rudy Giuliani, his attorneys and Donald Trump assert that the insurrectionists and members of Trump’s militia were exercising their First Amendment right to assemble and freely express themselves on January 6, 2021. All U.S. citizens have the same First Amendment rights as codified in the Bill of Rights – which is the first 10 Amendments – of the U.S. Constitution: The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Constitutional rights are not unlimited, nor does the Constitution lend itself to wild interpretations by those who would use it to justify excessive and criminal behavior. Trump and his supporters’ claims that his followers were only exercising their constitutional rights were outright lies. In Brandenburg v. Ohio, the U.S. Supreme Court defined limits on free speech in 1969 when it ruled that the government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless that speech is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” Responding to a question about First Amendment rights and the January 6 insurrection, free speech expert Timothy Zick explained: “The First Amendment does not protect violent activity. Those engaged in riotous conduct – breaking windows, vandalizing the Capitol and its contents, assaulting officers, using bear spray, etc. – can’t invoke the First […]

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