Dramatic things are occurring around our constitution's First Amendment free speech rights. They aren't worth anything if one is on the Supreme Court grounds, but with narrow limits, they are golden elsewhere, possibly even in indecency cases and stolen valor matters.
Interesting times are ahead as the Supreme Court will decide what limits should be applied to free speech rights. Are they really guaranteed by the constitution? Are there limits despite the clear words of the Amendment? Consider challenges to the exercise of free speech and cases being considered by the court.
Occupy Wall Street protesters are pushing the limits of free speech, not in what they say, but where they say it. As has long been known, constitutional rights are not unconditional. The protesters have a right to harangue about unethical banking practices, but they don't have the right to obstruct traffic. The constitution guarantees only a right to peaceful assembly. To be peaceful, its protest must respect public safety and not disturb the peace. Therein lies the justification for the arrest of some of the occupy Wall Street protestors. They clearly can't push first amendment rights past established safety and disturbance boundaries.
Other cases, presently under consideration by the Supreme Court, bear a close watch in the coming months. The Stolen Valor Act case of U.S. v. Alvarez will examine whether it is a federal crime to lie about receiving military decorations. Review of the Court of Appeals decision that the Stolen Valor Act is an unconstitutional limit on free speech is underway by the high court. And in another case, the FCC's indecency rule is being challenged. That case stems from the fleeting expletive uttered by Bono at the Golden Globe Awards in 2003. In the context of these cases, consider the irony that the U.S. Code prohibits a person from demonstrating, standing, displaying signs, or making a harangue on the Supreme Court's grounds or in the building. I told you it is an interesting time.