The Freedom of Speech

Posted by Vayden B. Michigan

Why the right to protest is the American Creed.

The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America says, “Congress shall make no law… 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 protects our right to protest, which includes more peaceful demonstrations, such as a march, all the way to acts of civil disobedience, such as the sit-ins that were staged during the Civil Rights Movement. Around 60 years later, American essayist, poet, and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau said in his essay “On the duty of Civil Disobedience”, “Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty.”. This quote demonstrates that protest is the basis for freedom. It gives off the metaphor that protest is the foundation of the house (freedom), and without the foundation the house will collapse.

The right to peacefully protest was granted in the Constitution, due to the fact that the tyrant British Monarchy would persecute anyone who demonstrated against the monarchy. Although that was over 250 years ago, there are still nations that don’t grant the right to protest. For example, in 2015 Spain enacted a “Gag Rule”, which got rid of the right for citizens to demonstrate against and protest the government. That is why it is remarkable that in America we have the right to speak out about the injustices that our country faces.

Protest has been with our country since the very beginning. For example, protest was used to help separate from the British, with major acts of civil disobedience such as the Boston Tea Party. It was also used to help end slavery and Civil Rights.

During Vietnam, protests such as marches were widely used to protest the war, but protesters also made use of other types of protest, like music. For example, musical acts such as Creedence Clearwater Revival, Crosby Stills & Nash, and Bob Dylan, all spoke out about the war and other injustices during that time in songs such as “Fortunate Son”, “Ohio” , and “Blowin’ in the Wind”. Even now protest is still being used to speak out about corruption in our country, in events such as the March for Our Lives, Women's Marches, Anti-Donald Trump rallies, and the March for Science.

Although the Constitution grants the right to peaceful protest, it may not always be that way. On May 4th, 1970, during a large protest on the Kent State campus against the US bombing of Cambodia, the National Guard shot 4 unarmed students. This shows that peaceful protest may not always be granted by the government.

Protest runs in my family’s blood. It is something that my family wholeheartedly supports. During the war in Vietnam, my Great Uncle was an anti-war activist. In fact, he even ripped up and burned his draft card to protest the injustice of the Vietnam War.

Even though protest has been running through my veins for all 16 years of my life, it was just this year that I discovered my right to protest. It arose with the anger and frustration that came from the outcome of the 2016 election and all of the injustices that I have noticed during the Trump Administration, which has mobilized me. For example, after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, I became a gun safety advocate and started openly speaking out about gun control. In the past few months, I have attended both of my school walkouts, the Detroit March for Our Lives, and I have joined Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action.

By participating in events like these, it gives me a feeling like no other. When you protest, you are working together with your friends and neighbors to fight for a common cause, and that is the beauty in protest. Having the ability to protest is an amazing thing, due to the fact that it gives citizens the ability to change the country into what they want it to be, not what the people in charge want it to be, which is not something that all people around the world are able to do, which is why the ability to protest is the American Creed.

For the past 11 years of my life I have been a member of the Boy Scouts. As a Boy Scout you are supposed to follow the Scout Oath, which says, “...I will do my best, to do my duty to God and my country…”, and I believe that protesting and speaking out against injustice is my duty to my country. The Scout Oath also says, “...help other people at all times…” and speaking out against corruption, I am helping others. By speaking out I am doing the best I can to help fight against inequality, to help not only others, but the whole country.

In conclusion, having the ability to protest is an amazing feature that our country has because it is a right that is not available in all other countries. It gives us the opportunity to change ou country into what we want it ot be. It keep our country standing strong, and as long as protest is allowed in the United States, it will not be in any danger of crumbling. With the polarization that our nation is facing and the stalemate that has occured with it, protest and the right for people to peacefully assemble is more important now than ever, because it is the only chance that we have to change the injustices that our nation faces. We have to use our American Creed, because when people come together for a common cause, things will change, and we need to take advantage of that opportunity.

Published on Jun 9, 2018
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Writing Our Future: American Creed is part of the National Writing Project’s family of youth publishing projects, all gathered under the Writing Our Future initiative.

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