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The Freedom of Speech is Inclusive of Everyone

Sep 19, 2018 • by Jocelyn Claire Young
Citizen Submitted Story

As citizens of the United States we have a First Amendment right to speak freely and to protest.  These situations have been going on since the country was founded and before.  We may not always agree with what others have to say or are protesting about.  However, we should respect others points of view.

Over the past several months the president has commented about some NFL players taking a knee or not standing during the playing of the national anthem tp protest police brutality in the nation.  Last week, during the confirmation hearing for Judge Kavanaugh, there were protests.  The president commented that he did not know why protests were allowed.  Both of these actions are covered under the First Amendment right to Free Speech. 

The anti-war movement of the 1960’s sparked country wide protests at college campuses and elsewhere.  Some people did not understand or approve of these college students speaking out against the Vietnam War.  In some instances there were arrests and those arrests were challenged in the courts.  Some of these situations were decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. 

Three students wore black armbands to school in protest of the government’s policy regarding the Vietnam War.  They were expelled from their high school.  The Court decided that the wearing of an armband was akin to speech since they were expressing their opinion and decided that the armbands were protected under the First Amendment.[1]  Another instance was where a person burned the American flag.  He was arrested and convicted of this offense.  The conviction was appealed.  The Court decided that flag burning was a form of protected protest under the First Amendment.[2]  Another matter involved the wearing of a jacket that said “Fuck the Draft”.  This supposedly violated some California statute.  Again, the Court ruled that this arrest was a violation of the individual’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights because he was stating his personal view on the Vietnam War.[3]

Another situation involved the attaching of a peace symbol to a flag in a protest of the invasion of Cambodia and the murders of four (4) Kent State University students, who were protesting the invasion of Cambodia, by the Ohio National Guard.  He was arrested for this action.  The Court ruled that the arrest was infringing on his right, under the First Amendment, to freedom of expression.[4]

As the Supreme Court of the United States has pointed out in these examples, the speech that is protected may not be popular, however, that speech is an individual’s right under the First Amendment.  Just as the president, or anyone else in government, has a right to their comments and thoughts, so does the average American citizen.

[1] Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 US 503 (1969)

[2] Street v. New York, 394 US 576 (1969)

[3] Cohen v. California, 403 US 15 (1971)

[4] Spence v. Washington, 418 US 405 (1974)

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