If a Highway Patrol Officer Cancels Your Peaceful Protest, Is He Guilty of Eradicating Your 1st Amendment Rights?

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So about that Police State. What has happened to the rights of Americans allegedly guaranteed under the Constitution? I viewed a video taken in Philadelphia where two people were passing out flyers bringing people’s attention to the Federal Reserve. At one point, a group of Park Rangers descends on them, handcuffs them (for theirs and the officers’ safety allegedly) and then tries to determine what law they’ve broken. Originally, the two people were told that they didn’t have a permit in spite of the fact that the US Constitution is permit enough, but not for some cities and/or jurisdictions.

If a Highway Patrol Officer Cancels Your Peaceful Protest, Is He Guilty of Eradicating Your 1st Amendment Rights

After making several phone calls, with the two people sitting on the concrete in handcuffs, it was determined that yes, they didn’t have the proper permit. They were given a citation and then released. The flyers they had been handing out were confiscated as “evidence.” Apparently, all of the flyers were needed, not simply one. How much do you want to bet that most of them went into a trash can on the way to the office?

We just visited Philadelphia not too long ago and it had been years since we had been there. I noticed that the buildings that you could simply walk through on your own were now cordoned off and signs were posted saying that each person would be searched (along with their backpacks, etc.) before being allowed to enter the buildings. There were city cops and Park Rangers as well to ensure compliance. I chose not to enter any of the buildings rather than submit to an illegal search. I noticed how many people were willing to submit themselves and they probably learned it from airports.

I’m canceling your 1st Amendment rights because I can… I’m canceling your 1st Amendment rights because I can… But what is even more disturbing to me is the way people are being treated for peacefully protesting. You’re probably aware of the growing movement across America in which people position themselves on highway overpasses and hold signs calling for Obama’s impeachment. I’ve watched plenty of videos and maybe you have too where protesters have simply gathered and hold signs. They’re not being obnoxious. They’re not trying to create problems. They are simply – and quietly – holding signs, American flags or something else to get their message across. The Constitution guarantees Americans citizens the right to gather and peacefully protest the government and its policies.

Yet, more often than not, what we also see in this videos are police officers or Highway Patrol officers arriving on the scene and asking people to leave. When they do not comply, the officers will normally arrest them for “disobeying” a command of a “peace officer.”

Here’s a video of such a situation. In it, you’ll see that a small group of people were peacefully protesting and officers are already there when the video starts. There are seven to eight patrol cars with just as many officers. The police essentially tell the people that they need to leave (though it comes across as more of a question than a command). Check it out.

To me, this tactic is very disconcerting. Because the officers believed that this peaceful protest could wind up creating a safety hazard for drivers below, they decide that they then have the right to cancel out the first Amendment in this situation. Police officers have authority, but they don’t possess that much authority. The first amendment reads:

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.

In essence, the first amendment guarantees the right of citizens to peacefully assemble. That’s what these people were doing, but the officers believed that public safety outweighed the first amendment right and therefore, quashed the protest.

Do police officers have the right to cancel out a person’s right to peacefully protest because of what might happen? I don’t believe so. In fact, these people were on the sidewalk of an overpass. They had a right to be there.

Also according to the video (if you watch it to the end), the two men were cuffed and made to sit on the curb at the back end of a patrol car that was idling. Several times, one of the men stated that the fumes were making him sick but the officers would not allow him to relocate. Finally, after another officer arrived, that officer helped the man move to another location.

The tragedy here is manifold. I wonder if the gathering had been in support of Obama, would it have gone the same way? If Muslims were involved, would they have been arrested? Instead, we have several white Tea Party members (you know, the ones the DHS calls homegrown terrorists) and they were essentially forced to shut down their gathering because of what the officers said might happen.

Some of the comments after the video are interesting. One individual stated that “They failed to obey the instructions of an officer; that’s reason enough to be arrested.” Is it? Aren’t police officers sworn to uphold the law and the Constitution or did that go by the wayside as well? If I’m walking down the street and an officer orders me to walk down the middle of the road, I’m probably not going to comply with that order. At the very least, I’d ask why and if all I heard in response was “Because I’m a peace officer and I’m giving you a command,” I’d probably keep walking.

I’m wondering why we believe that police officers need to be obeyed at every turn? In today’s world, it seems like a person can be arrested for “obstruction,” which can mean anything. If you don’t follow a command, then you have resisted or you’re guilty of obstruction.

I have to wonder about Missouri, where this incident occurred. Did the police have nothing better to do that day? Was real crime so slow that it took 8 officers with just as many patrol cars to take care of this “problem” of a small group of white people protesting peacefully on an overpass? Last I checked, St Charles, MO was not crime free. I’m sure as these 8 officers were gathered on this overpass, other real crime was happening in other parts that needed attention. Things must have been slow for the Highway Patrol that day, huh?

Well, I’m going to have to research this more frankly, because I don’t believe that these officers had the right to stop this protest. Obviously, they think they did but that doesn’t prove anything. I will research this and get back to you soon.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to express your outrage at the Missouri Highway Patrol for their flagrant disregard for the First Amendment, specifically Missouri Hwy Trooper Jenkins, contact information is found below:

Missouri Highway Patrol website

1510 E Elm St Jefferson City, MO (573) 751-3313

2920 N Shamrock Rd Jefferson City, MO (573) 751-1000

511 Airport Rd Jefferson City, MO (573) 751-3303

Missouri State Troopers’ Association 1729 East Elm Street Jefferson City, MO 65101

573.635.5500 800.621.5094 Toll Free 573.636.5572 Fax

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6 Responses

  1. mrl3 says:

    Hello……You were on an overpass. That’s illegal. The LEO is well within his authority to demand you leave the overpass. It’s also illegal to be standing or walking along an interstate which is where this was. I’m all for holding our LEO accountable for their illegal actions. But, we need to stop reacting with emotion instead of intellect.

  2. 5 War Veteran says:

    America is learning how poorly their police system is educated regarding the US Constitution. This has to change. Even if it includes “the people” providing that education.

  3. Michael J. Marsalek says:

    America is the most over-legislated & over-regulated country in the world and we have the highest prison population of any country in the world. Almost everything we eat, wear, do and say violates some law or regulation. And now the government has the ability to capture,store for later use any and all forms of communication. That said, the video clearly demonstrates that the authorities don’t necessarily know what specific law or regulation a person has violated at the time of detention. The point & the real problem being that anyone can be arrested at any time on the suspicion that the individual has violated some law or regulation now or sometime – anytime in the past. Though ignorance under the law is no excuse: it is impossible to know if and when a person is breaking a law when the officials can & do make up the rules as they go along.

  4. Elaine says:

    I don’t know the City Codes for all of the cities in the U.S. I do know that Dallas City/County does allow protests “if” you pay a small fee and register. This was a long time ago, but at that time, it was only $15.00. The city would block off a specific area to allow it.

    Due to it being a Highway Patrol officer doing this, a complaint (free) can be filed with the city, county and state, OF COURSE, THIS SHOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED; however, they can be brought to the attention of the City Councilors as well as County, but citizens have to organize to do so. The Councilors are “voted in”. Time to start making phone calls “backed up with Letters” to each representative.

    • 5 War Veteran says:

      However it is also criminal to require a fee “taxation without representation” to exercise a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Now they can assess a “cleaning charge” if the protest can be considered legally to produce refuse.

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