At the Archives, the First Amendment Is Just for Show

1st-needs-you.jpgThe National Archives is one of my favorite DC attractions. It has a small public display area showing some major documents in American history. Among other treasures, it displays one the original copies of the Bill of Rights — with all twelve of the original proposed amendments. (There's even a special vault to protect the original Constitution and Bill of Rights at night.)

What became our First Amendment is actually the third on the original list. Sadly, it seems that the Archive's guards think the Bill of Rights is just for show.

According to this account in a Daily Kos diary, Vistiors to the Archives were kicked out for wearing “Impeach Bush and Cheney, Change History” T-shirts:

With the original First Amendment “Freedom of Speech” looking on, admirers of the U.S. Constitution in the Washington D.C. National Archives Building today were ordered to leave for wearing tee-shirts reading “Impeach Bush and Cheney.” Many of the tourist-activists were in town to hail the arrival of impeachment marcher John Nirenberg, the 61 year-old college professor who has just walked from Boston to D.C. to call attention to the need for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney.

In a telephone interview, one of the participants, Susan Serpa, age 56, told me she was looking at the displays when a female security guard approached her and said “You need to go speak to that man over there” indicating a burly security guard. When Serpa asked why, the woman said: “Your shirt.” Serpa's shirt reads on the front: “Impeach Bush and Cheney, Change History.” On the reverse it says: “MaineImpeach.org.”

Other security guards then approached Serpa and told her: “You need to leave because of your shirt.

Assuming this account is correct, what the guards did is completely, totally illegal, as the Archives is federal property, open to the public, and the wearers were not committing a disturbance. But the guards either didn't know that or didn't care.

How have we sunk to this state?

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4 Responses to At the Archives, the First Amendment Is Just for Show

  1. PHB says:

    Once can be a mistake.

    We need to 1) have the ACLU or metric equivalent put the archives on notice, 2) have some more folk show up in impeachment shirts.

    It is important in this instance to differentiate policy from clue-deficiency.

    Perhaps I should attempt to plug my book by having a T-Shirt made up for The dotCrime Manifesto, get myself thrown out of somewhere because of it and then complain to Slashdot.

  2. dilbert dogbert says:

    Yes.
    Simple answer to a simple question.
    Enjoy

  3. VOR says:

    Obviously they should not have been forced to leave, but we probably don’t have all the facts here, maybe there were a large number of people and the discussions were getting heated, disrupting other visitors chance to view and enjoy the documents? I haven’t been to the location so I can’t speak to how it’s laid out, or if that would be an issue, but let’s not jump to conclusions. Mountains out of molehills you know?

  4. We have a constitution which clearly mandates a limited government of few and defined powers, and we’re governed by the Leviathan. You are surely familiar with the history of how this came about, and it is a history ‘liberals’ played no small part in.

    That being the case, what do you expect? You can’t run the Leviathan on a limited government constitution, without a staggering degree of systematic, organized dishonesty. All three branches of government, as a matter of necessity, are staffed with people who are comfortable with violating the constitution they’ve sworn an oath to uphold, every working day of their lives.

    You wanted a government that would violate the 10th amendment, you got it. That it’s also a government willing to violate the 1st is something you should have expected.

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