'Occupy' and 'Tea Party' use same constitutional right

They may seem to be polar opposites, but, these two groups have something very fundamental in common.
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By Glenn Dorfman

For conservatives who do not understand or like, "Occupy Wall Street or liberals who do not understand or like, the Tea Party, here's a little Constitutional tutorial.

For me, an old radical, with plenty of scars and weaknesses, knowledge remains a liberating force.

To understand the definition of the concept, right to petition government, one must first understand where this concept originates. The right to petition is one of the fundamental freedoms of all Americans, and is documented in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

The First Amendment consists of five “freedoms” which are: Religion, Free Speech, Free Press, Assembly, and Petition.

The Petition section of the first amendment, also commonly referred to as the Petition Clause, states that “people have the right to appeal to government in favor of or against policies that affect them or in which they feel strongly. This freedom includes the right to gather signatures in support of a cause and to lobby legislative bodies for or against legislation."

A more simple definition of the right to petition, is the right to present requests to the government without punishment or reprisal. This right is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Looking at the specific definition of the word petition, as it relates to the freedom of petition and the First Amendment, the word can be used to describe “any nonviolent, legal means of encouraging or disapproving government action, whether directed to the judicial, executive or legislative branch."

"Lobbying, letter-writing, e-mail campaigns, testifying before tribunals, filing lawsuits, supporting referenda, collecting signatures for ballot initiatives, peaceful protests and picketing: all public articulation of issues, complaints and interests designed to spur government action qualifies under the petition clause," according to the Copley First Amendment Center.

Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party: two sides of the same constitutional right.

Glen Dorfmann is a curmudgeon of sorts, with the heart of a poet. Email him at gsdorfman@csensesol.com

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