The Constitution & Social Protest


Over the past few months, the United States has been gripped by protests focusing on issues as diverse as police violence and government-enforced social distancing measures designed to prevent coronavirus. As protesters take to the street to voice their opinions on these important issues, questions of how to weigh the interest of the government in maintaining order and public safety against the rights of American to peacefully assemble and exercise free speech have shot to the forefront of public debate.

What powers does the US government have under the constitution and the Insurrection Act to use military forces to establish and maintain societal order? How do our laws define the delicate division of responsibility between federal, state, and local authorities in protecting public order? What laws govern the actions of police in dealing with protesters who are exercising their rights to assemble and express views peacefully?

On Tuesday, June 16, David Rivkin, one of our nation’s top experts in the field of constitutional law, addressed these and other questions in the webinar hosted by the Center for the National Interest. Mr. Rivkin served in several senior legal positions in the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations, and he has been lead counsel in numerous high-profile constitutional cases. He is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and frequently appears on PBS and Fox News.

Jacob Heilbrunn, editor of The National Interest, served as the moderator of this discussion.