Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

March 6, 2014

Frankfort march a refreshing display

Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — The right of the people “peaceably to assemble” is among the First Amendment’s least heralded – but often most powerful – provisions. While the freedoms of speech, religion and the press draw the bulk of the attention, the freedom to demonstrate has been a driving force behind our nation’s social change.

Events Wednesday in Frankfort thrust this right into the spotlight and served as a reminder of how potent this tenet of the Bill of Rights can be. An estimated 4,000 people gathered at the state Capitol to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a march led by civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King Jr. and baseball player Jackie Robinson. That march in 1964, which sought passage of a state public accommodations law, attracted about 10,000 people but didn’t result in immediate change – two years passed before the bill became law.

The civil rights movement of the 1960s is particularly connected with the right to assemble. Those who lived through or have studied that period are familiar with the images of marches and sit-ins that occurred across the South and in Washington, D.C. The momentum generated by the sheer force of people taking to the streets and filling public places cannot be understated.

So, it was refreshing to see people put this right into practice this week in respectful, celebratory appreciation of the sacrifices and efforts that were made a half century ago. In an age when it often seems that so-called social engagement occurs through Facebook “likes,” Twitter comments and anonymous Internet chatter, it was inspiring for so many Kentuckians to publicly stand shoulder to shoulder in commemoration of an important moment in our state’s history.

None of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment should be taken for granted, especially the ones that are commonly overlooked. The more we exercise each of our freedoms, the stronger our democracy – and our society – will become.