Brumskine Talks Constitutionally On Protest Versus Assembly

By C. Winnie Saywah

The keynote speaker on the celebrations of Law Day in Liberia, former Liberty Party Political leader, Charles Walker Brumskine says the right to demonstrate or protest is not in the organic laws of the country.

He said the right to demonstrate plays an important role in a free and democratic society but the constitutional right of freedom of assembly or the right to assemble has been judicially construed to include the right to demonstrate or protest.

Speaking on the general topic, ‘The Constitutional Right of Freedom of Assembly vis-a-vis the Right to Demonstrate,’ Cllr. Brumskine comparing the right to freedom of assembly and the right to protest to that of the United States of America said the right to protest has an uneven history adding that the freedom of assembly and the right to protest are not unlimited.

Cllr. Brumskine defined demonstration to be the active manifestation of a person’s ideas and beliefs while the right of freedom of assembly requires the right to demonstrate, the right to protest but in an orderly and peaceful manner.

“It lies in the heart of a democratic society. If the constitution guarantees freedom of assembly but the right to demonstrate is infringed upon, then there remains a restraint on ones constitutional right to assemble,” Cllr. Brumskine explained.

Cllr. Brumskine said at first the freedom to assemble protects only the right to petition the government to take a particular action; overtime, the freedom of assembly has grown to protect groups that gather to express ideas through protest and demonstration without petitioning the government.

“The government may limit freedom if the instance under consideration satisfies three conditions,” Cllr. Brumskine said naming the conditions as ‘an important government interest, content neutral and the limitation must restrict the freedom of assembly as little as possible to serve the important governmental interest.’

He said while Liberians enjoy the freedom guaranteed by the constitution, they cannot take for granted that the continued vitality of those freedoms depend on the active engagement of each citizen while the charge of lawyers who should serve as gatekeepers of justice is not just to understand the technicalities of the laws but to absorb the spirit of the law and the values embodied in the constitution.