First Amendment rights v. security during Biden’s inauguration are one of the top issues as we approach tomorrow’s event.
Robert Nelon is a partner/shareholder at the national law firm Hall Estill who has spent more than three decades specializing in First Amendment Law. Through the years, Nelon has represented a large number of national media clients, including ABC, CBS, NBC, A&E Television Networks, BBC America, The New York Times, Dow Jones & Co. (The Wall Street Journal), Time Inc., Random House, Conde Nast, The Walt Disney Co., Allbritton Communications, Hearst Television, The E.W. Scripps Company, and Stephens Media, as well as numerous local television and radio stations and newspapers. He says there are a lot of people who misunderstand First Amendment rights and he has been trying to provide education given recent events.
First Amendment Rights vs Biden's Inauguration Security
"The First Amendment right to gather, to speak, or to protest, is not absolute. The Supreme Court has long recognized that reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on speech are permitted. That’s something that many people don’t understand, mistakenly believing that they have a right to speak whenever and wherever they choose. What restrictions on speech are reasonable, however, is going to vary greatly depending on the circumstances," Nelon says.
"The restrictions on attendance, speaking, or protesting during the Biden inauguration appear, at this point, to be reasonable. The same restrictions may have been overreach––and likely would not have been put in place––prior to January 6, but the heightened security concerns since that day likely justify the broad limits on access to areas around the Capitol. Once the inauguration is over, streets now blocked will be open again, and National Guard troops will leave. The National Mall can be freed up for tourists to wander around and for vendors and protesters to return to their normal activities. In the meantime, security concerns legitimately override the right of citizens to be physically present at locations that pose an identifiable risk to public officials," Nelon says.