First Amendment Rights—McCall’s Evolution as Protector
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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. So reads the First Amendment to the US Constitution. The exact meaning of this amendment has been the subject of much debate and many Supreme Court rulings since the ratification of the Constitution in 1789. The way in which the Court chooses to interpret this Amendment at any given time has a drastic effect on the way constituents choose to protest and the consequences thereof. The line between constitutionally protected rights under the First Amendment and those actions left unprotected has continually required clarification. The years of the Sixties brought great degrees of social change and, with that, many young protestors pushing the envelope on public officials and demanding the liberty to exercise their rights. One of the greatest legacies of this period is the sit-in. Originally popularized by the Civil Rights Movement, demonstrators of all persuasions adopted and made notorious this useful tool of protest. In the interest of keeping the peace, public officials were required to decide between allowing or disallowing such demonstrations of protest and dissent. Some proved themselves to be greatly in favor of the process of protest; others found it and its repercussions merely a thorn in their side. The sit-in at Johnson Hall on the University of Oregon campus in the spring of 1970 was not among the most notorious of nation-wide protests, but it did change the way Oregonians viewed protest as well as the way public officials chose to respond to confrontation.
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