The Right to Assemble

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.

Michael W. Flynn
4-minute read

Courts have also upheld noise ordinances that limit the use of megaphones. This is considered a reasonable restriction on the manner in which a person speaks. Governments can also limit the medium of speech, such as prohibiting writing a message in spray paint on the front door of city hall. 

Last, courts have upheld a local government’s ability to require a permit for large assemblies. For example, imagine that a veteran’s group and an anti-war group both wanted to assemble in front of city hall on Veteran’s Day. The city needs a way to accommodate both and allow both groups to assemble, so it can set up a process where a permit is required beforehand. This way, the city can avoid the problem of two large groups trying to congregate in a small space at the same time. So long as the permitting process is generally fair, and divests the government from making arbitrary decisions about which groups to support, then the city can require that groups get permits. As discussed above, the city cannot choose which group to give the permit to based on which group it likes better. That would be an example of the government controlling speech based on its content. 

So James, the city does have the right to close public parks at night even though it has some impact on your ability to meet there.

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