First Amendment is sacrosanct [Letter]

June 02, 2014

As a peace activist who believes strongly in the First Amendment and as a proponent of animal rights, I really enjoyed reading Bruce Friedrich's commentary, "Everybody suffers when officers act like they're above the law" (May 29). Of particular interest was the Frederick Douglass quote: "To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker. It is just as criminal to rob a man of his right to speak and hear as it would be to rob him of his money."

Activists who are out in the streets will invariably encounter police officers. Generally, a police officer in Baltimore will not interfere with constitutionally protected First Amendment activities. Occasionally, though, as Mr. Friedrich explains, a police officer will issue an order which disrespects the Constitution. I always remind police officers that they took an oath to uphold the Constitution. Should they ignore their oath, I ask to speak with their commanding officer.

Of course, as the animal rights activists found out, despite showing the officers "the property management company's specific guidelines" for the Inner Harbor, they were "intimidated" by members of the Baltimore Police Department. So I was pleased to read that this city agency is being sued for trashing the Constitution. In these times where a virulent Patriot Act permits government misconduct and an out-of-control National Security Agency ignores the Constitution, we must always forcefully demand the protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. As Frederick Douglass pointed out, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress." We all would do well to take to heart his sage advice.

Max Obuszewski, Baltimore

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