Cyndi's Two Cents

Right to peaceably assemble

Commentary.

All the focus on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in recent days brings back memories from my many visits to our nation’s capital.  I have been struck with an overwhelming sense of awe every time I have walked through the museums and the monuments.  Most of my trips to Washington were news gathering missions as an agricultural reporter, not as a tourist, yet there is history in nearly every building and every street in the area. Every time I have been there, I have witnessed a protest or two of some variety.  It is not extraordinary to see people protesting in small numbers, or in parades of hundreds or even thousands of people. 

Peacefully assembling and protesting is a right afforded the citizenry of these United States of America by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

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.

I pray that the criminal looting and rioting and burning that took place in many cities across our country over the past year does not prevent those of us who wish to peaceably assemble from doing so. Your voice should be heard. My voice should be heard. How might our country look if the citizenry had not felt free to hold up signs with words of support for their cause or disapproval for proposed or current legislation? 

It was 43 years ago that the American Agriculture Movement (AAM) began. Congress had just enacted another farm bill that some farmers believed meant four more years of prices paid to farmers below the cost of production.  The farmers wanted to make the Secretary aware that, according to AAM, “if the situation was not remedied, a depression in the farm sector would drag the rest of the nation down, too.”

A strike was set to take place on December 14, 1977, if the government did not agree to certain conditions. Tractorcades showed up at nearly every state capital just 4 days prior to the strike day. Many of those farmers who carried picket signs and demonstrated in front of government buildings in Washington had never been far from home and were certainly not used to speaking out. 

According to AAM, when congress reconvened on January 18, 1978, 50,000 farmers were in Washington, DC to greet them. Just 2 months later, 30,000 farmers marched down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Some of the farmers stayed in Washington, on the mall, for several weeks.  There were hearings and as time went on and the farmers went home, some lawmakers introduced legislation that eventually became law, to help the farmers.  Some believed these laws offered relief, others felt they were just band-aids.

I love my country, but it is rare that I agree with everything any elected official stands for or supports.  As an American, it is my right to let them know when I disagree. I can do that without burning down neighborhood businesses, looting big box stores or breaking out windows in the U.S. Capitol. 

Your right to peaceably assemble has NOT been stolen by bad actors. Intelligent people will not draw comparisons.

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