To the editor,

The First Amendment says that Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the people to peaceably assemble.

A right exists at all levels of government.

In the First Amendment the right to peaceably assemble is grammatically attached to the right to petition by a comma which suggests the two are linked. This is like the freedom of speech and press. The separation by semicolon in the amendment is between religion and the group speech and press and then the group assembly and petition. Speech and press can be looked at individually or together. The same applies to assembly and petition. A petition can be drawn up individually or collectively in an assembly for that purpose.

An assembly can be for any community purpose and is not restricted to generating a petition. Sometimes the assembly is called or is referred to as a congress. A congress is a meeting of individuals to concert measures for their common good, or to adjust their mutual concerns.

According to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary the word assemble means: To collect a number of individuals or particulars into one place, or body; to bring or call together; to convene; to congregate.

What does it mean to peaceably assemble? If we refer to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary it defines peaceably as: Without disturbance; quietly; without agitation; without interruption.

This means that the people can meet or organize without lawfully being interrupted by opponents, governments or agents of either. The word peaceably like the word regulated in the Second Amendment is often interpreted wrongly and made synonymous to similar words inappropriately.  The word regulate in the Second Amendment is often confused with the word govern even though the Constitution clearly differentiates between the two in Article 1 Section 8. The word peaceably in the First Amendment is often confused with the word peacefully. Peacefully denotes how we are to behave towards others while peaceably denotes how other are to behave towards us.  Some people fail to note that a word may have several definitions and you need to use context to assign the right one.

Our country was created through assemblies called a congress. The founders engaged in rigorous and often contentious debate. Emotion is as important as logic in presenting an argument. The audience must feel what you are saying as they hear your words. Making people listen to you sometime results in a heated and tumultuous environment that does not fit the definition of peaceful. For those who have or have had teenage children understand these challenges of communication.

In assemblies of people exchanging ideas or grievances you must always be alert for and concerned with the level of anxiety or fear being communicated. You may not understand the fear for you may not have experienced in your life the realities being expressed by the person.  Do not retreat from or condemn what is being said. Open yourself to explanation and clarification.

An assembly can be interrupted by others or by yourself if you loose control of your emotions or you intentionally disregard or disrespect the input of others.

Ed Taber


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