Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

An Occupier’s perspective on freedom of speech

January 20, 2012 by Robby Boparai


Every Occupier has their own personal reasons for being out there, but all unite under the banner of free speech. I believe that the Constitution of the United States embodies the principles of democracy as they are to be practiced by the government. I believe the Founding Fathers wrote the Bill of Rights to ensure that the government does not exceed its authority against its own people. Remember, this is precisely why the United States exists: because the people of the 13 colonies believed that the English government was exceeding its power. The first amendment embodies the ideology that created this country: the idea that citizens have a right to peacefully speak out against our government. We are very thankful for this right, but lately are wondering if the government is willing to enforce one of its central tenets.

I am a senior at U.C. Davis, and I have many problems with the way the California State Legislature has constructed the U.C. system. I have worked hard for the past three years, yet because of cuts to the system, I will not graduate by June 2012. One of my classes was cut, and I had to shift my schedule around. Every day, more of us realize that even after we get our degree, how are we expected to live? The job markets across the country are becoming stingier. My loans will take a big cut out of any paycheck I earn (if I can earn any at all), and as a resident of California and an American citizen, I believe I have a right to say something about it. It’s the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, and the first issue the Founding Fathers wanted to address regarding the government’s hold over the people.

Teacher's corner

There have been other times in U.S. History where the Freedom of Assembly has been called into question. In 1960 an Arkansas Statute required teachers to declare all groups and associations they belonged to as a precondition to teaching. Supreme Court case Shelton vs. Tucker found that this ruling was unconstitutional. How does the Supreme Court's ruling in Shelton vs. Tucker help us better understand what the Freedom of Assembly entails?

To prevent us from peacefully protesting is to ignore one of the primary attributes of this nation. What happened on U.C. Davis on November 18 was horrific, and added the issue of being able to protest to the list of reasons to protest. Since then, Occupy U.C. Davis has not let up. I am involved to inform people about their rights, and help them realize that they don’t have to accept pathetic rationalizations from anyone if they are upset about some facet of the government, and that they can do something about it.

We are a collection of people, each of whom believes they have a right to a voice, and a right to speak out against what we believe to be unfair practices as stated in the First Amendment. We are practicing this right, and have no intention of stopping until something has changed. We are helping each other in exercising this right by supporting each other with food, shelter, or even by simply talking to each other. Participating in this has helped my faith in humanity.

I am involved because I consider myself one of the people mentioned in the phrase “We, the people.” Are you?

Robby Boparai is a U.C. Davis fourth-year undergraduate who is involved in the university's Occupy movement.

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