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America 250 Town Hall Series :  What Does the First Amendment Ask of Us?

America 250 Town Hall Series : What Does the First Amendment Ask of Us?

September 25, 2024
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Brooks Memorial Library

224 Main St, Brattleboro, VT 05301

America 250 Town Hall Series:

What Does the First Amendment Ask of Us?

This Town Hall considers the intellectual and imaginative muscles necessary for holding free speech principles in a pluralist society. We’ll consider the arguments in the
Brandenburg decision and then apply them to current protests. How might protecting
freedom of speech help us to disagree?

Background:  The right to protest is one of the people’s most fundamental freedoms, but what about speech that veers toward lawlessness or social disorder? During most of the 20th century, governments put speakers in jail for creating a “clear and present danger.” Under that rule, Eugene Debs went to prison for denouncing the first World War and Charlotte Whitney went to jail for belonging to the Communist Party.  As far as the government was concerned, their sentences were too dangerous to be heard in public.

In 1969, the Supreme Court changed the rule. Only words that caused “immanent lawless action” could be suppressed. In the Brandenburg decision, the ACLU successfully defended a Klansman, giving all of us greater freedom from government prosecution. The Black and Jewish advocates who came to the aid of Clarence Brandenburg were able to see the principles of free speech beyond his racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Question: When does the right to protest fall outside the protections of the First

Participants will have a chance to explore this complex issue with their neighbors and in the company of the Constitution as part of our ongoing America 250 exploration.

America250 is a nonpartisan initiative working to engage every American in commemorating the 250th anniversary of our country. This multi-year effort, from now through July 4, 2026, is an opportunity to pause and reflect on our nation’s past, honor the contributions of all Americans, and look ahead toward the future we want to create for the next generation and beyond.

WWAC partners with America250 Vermont in creating dialogue, reflection and understanding of our past and future as US citizens and residents through our lecture series and town hall gatherings.  Building on the theme, Examining America’s Identity and Leadership in a Changing World, we work with Brooks Memorial Library and local historian Dr. Meg Mott, with support from the Vermont Humanities Council.


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