Defending the land of the free

What did you do for Constitution Day? Kent State celebrated by with an event Monday and will host another lecture tomorrow in honor of this legislation.

This occasion went fairly unnoticed by most students who seem to care very little about a document written more than 200 years ago.

Many Americans, particularly college students, fail to realize the power they possess when they understand the legal rights, or lack thereof, they have in this country. America is known as the “land of the free,” but many Americans have no idea what their freedoms entail.

When people refuse to learn the laws that were made to protect us, they inadvertently give the government and authority figures the ability to take their rights away.

We encourage our college peers to take the time to learn how the law defends us. As college students, we have to take extra care to know when we can or cannot be punished by law, because we are often given the undeserved labels of delinquent or radical.

Look no further than student protesters.

If you were with a group protesting peacefully for an unpopular view and were arrested, would you know that the First Amendment gives you the right to peaceably assemble?

Protesters have the right to inhabit public space without a permit as long as they follow pedestrian rules, according to the National Lawyer’s Guild. Passing out leaflets, verbal sparring without inciting violence and provoking a crowd response are all legal actions.

This information was likely helpful to approximately 200 people who were arrested in Washington, D.C. Saturday for involvement in an Iraq War protest.

Many people are unjustly arrested during protests because they believe police have limitless rights. If the protester is not inciting violence, this is not the case.

Even students who are just going out for a night on the town are at risk. Do you know what your rights are if an officer tries to question or detain you at a party?

Under the protection of the Fourth Amendment, you cannot be searched unless officers have probable cause. Many officers will also ask to see identification of people attending such a party. Those who are not in direct suspicion of breaking the law, such as those who show no proof of delinquency, would not necessarily have to provide identification.

One of the largest infringements on our rights, however, comes straight from the government supposedly protecting us.

The Patriot Act gives our government the right to tap our phone and e-mail conversations, have access to previously private records and detain immigrants and foreign nationals for long periods of time without a lawyer.

This is all done in “the name of fighting terrorism” without any regards to the freedoms promised to us in the Bill of Rights.

How did such heinous legislation pass? Americans simply take civil liberties for granted and assume they will be protected without public activism.

The good news for those who missed the Constitution Day events at Kent State is that every day should have such a purpose.

It is not enough to know your rights. You have to fight day by day to keep them.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.