John Nichols writes: The dark-of-night raid on New York City’s Zuccotti Park was not merely an assault on the Occupy Wall Street movement. It was an assault on the underpinnings of the First Amendment to the Constitution, an amendment that was outlined and approved by the First Congress of the United States at No. 26 Wall Street in 1789.
That amendment, which was written to empower citizens to challenge and prevent the rise of a totalitarian state, recognized basic freedoms that were essential to the defense of liberty. Among these are, of course, the right to speak freely and to embrace the religious ideals of one’s choice.
But from a standpoint of pushing back against power, however, the rights to assemble and to petition for the redress of grievances are fundamental. And those rights were clearly assaulted early Tuesday morning.
So, too, was another right: the right to a free press.
Why does the right to a free press matter so much? Because, as the founders knew, no experiment in democracy could ever be anything more than that—an experiment—if the people don’t know what is being done in their name by those in positions of authority. “A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it,” observed James Madison, “is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both.”