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On September 17th, 1787 after four long months of conflict and painstaking work 39 men signed the US Constitution, which from that point forward would be the supreme law of the land. The Constitution became the ultimate doctrine and the foundation of America’s future. No one could hold higher authority than the Constitution, and it became the job of elected officials to ensure the liberties established. It would be another four years before the Constitution received it first set of amendments, in the form of The Bill of Rights. On December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified and officially became part of the US Constitution. The Bill of Right consisted of ten amendments, which helped to further protect and insure the civil liberties of the American people. The Bill of Rights ensure what the founding fathers thought were basic civil liberties, including the right to bear arms, right to due process, and what quite possibly might be the most important, the first amendment which is the right to free speech.
The first amendment is not only limited to the freedom of speech, it is far reaching and covers Freedom of religion, expression, press, assembly, and petition. These freedoms are the defining difference between America and other countries. Freedom of speech allows people of the US to speak out against the government without fear of being prosecuted or even facing death. In many countries such as China, North Korea, and Russia people who speak out against the government can labeled as criminals and in many cases end up in prison or dead. These freedoms allow the general public to have a voice in events that take place in the country, while also being able to express displeasure with the government by way of protest. Although these freedoms are given to the american public as a way to ensure that citizens can be open about their views on the government and its practices, it does not grant citizens immunity from everything.
In one of the most recent American protest Occupy Wall Street (OWS), concerns that citizens lack the ability to effectively and freely speak out against the government. OWS was a protest over Corporate influences in the Democratic system in America. A year earlier in the court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the supreme court ruled that corporations have the same right as people, this gave the ability for corporations to fund elections helping to further candidates that support their business practices. The OWS movement found this to be unjust as it would help to further the wealth gap between citizens. Exercising their first amendment right the OWS protestors took to the streets of New York City’s financial district to protest. The protesters occupied the area for a little more than a month before being forced out by local authorities and eventually fell apart. In late 2012 it was revealed to the public that the take down of this peaceful protest was orchestrated at a federal level in collaboration with banks and other businesses. A taskforce comprised of FBI, DHS, and local authorities was created with the intent to break the protest up by arresting protesters and suppressing the ability for protesters to speak openly and freely.
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