Writing About Protest During Critical Periods

As a research intern for the Institute for Free Speech, a lot of the work that I am doing is tracking emerging concerns relating to the First Amendment constitutional rights. I have been closely following the recent Black Lives Matter protests across the country. Many protests have been peaceful and powerful but have been threatened by state force and legislation that has limited the ability to protest and exercise First Amendment liberties. I have recently written a blog post responding to these issues by arguing that protest organizers should be granted qualified immunity for protests that they organize. This is crucial because if protesters are held liable for the violent actions of others at a protest when they did nothing to encourage the violence can chill speech and discourage protests. More specifically I wrote about the case Mckesson v Doe where a Black Lives Matter protest organizer was found by the Fifth Circuit to be able to be held liable for organizing a protest where another individual injured a police officer. This case is relevant to recent protests across the country where protest organizers need additional protections in order to avoid legal liability. Here is the link to the blog post that I published:

https://www.ifs.org/blog/qualified-immunity-for-protesters/

 

I also am currently writing an article about the importance of protecting civil liberties in advance of an emergency. My argument is that in times of emergency people can become panicked and overestimate the threats that speech pose and be more inclined to grant excessive power to public officials to limit free expression. I pointed to the importance about having clear principles enshrined in law that clarify and limit the power of government so that basic expressive rights are not limited in times of emergency. In effect, the principles that I wrote can serve as a guide for government leaders in order to conduct themselves in a way that can effectively address emergency situations while also defending basic liberties. These points directly connect to the work that I have studied in my leadership classes about discretion for leaders. There is a definite need for leaders to be able to exercise discretion in order to address changing circumstances. However, discretion comes with it power which can be abused. The worry is that if there is inadequate oversight or accountability for the discretion of leaders then power can be exercised arbitrarily, irrationally, and abusively. Thus, my writing focuses on bringing leaders into a situation where they are able to engage with followers and address their needs while avoiding sacrificing important rights.

 

I have enjoyed the opportunity to write about protest rights during a time when it is more important than ever to protect the right to protest. My writing has also given be the chance to critically reflect on several themes that I have covered in my leadership course and their relationship to contemporary issues.

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