Skip to content

Faces of the First Amendment


My camera is one of the most important political tools I have. Whether it’s a political campaign or organizing for environmental groups, photos are important, especially on social media.

I find photos of public meetings strangely moving. Sometimes they capture the spirit of a Rockwell painting. I’m thinking, of course, of Rockwell’s “The Four Freedoms.” Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are the bedrock of our American democracy.

These photos were taken at a commissioners’ meeting last night. A coalition of environmental groups and plain unaffiliated citizens pleaded with the Stokes County commissioners to draft and approve an ordinance protecting the county from fracking and coal ash. Here’s a link to a news story on what the meeting was about.

On the one hand, this was a heartwarming outpouring of love for our county and concern for our rural way of life. Black people and white people, conservatives and liberals, are working together in this county like they never have before. But I also am a cold-blooded political operative. This event was organized. Back in May, environmental activists had politely asked the commissioners for an ordinance. They crudely blew us off. This was payback. Note the attitude of one of the commissioners in the last photo. It’s the classic attitude of an authoritarian who’d rather not be bothered with the people — at least when the people disagree with him.

























  1. Karren wrote:

    Looks like some of those earnest, concerned citizens need to run for County Council seats in the next elections. Somebody’s been holding those seats for far too long.

    Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at 11:14 am | Permalink
  2. Jo wrote:

    You hit the nail on the head! Pictures are worth a thousand words in some instances. In addition to first picture, expressions on the faces of the last two seem to say, “Why do we have to bother with you.”

    Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at 4:11 pm | Permalink
  3. DCS wrote:

    Your post just made this First Amendment scholar get choked up and teary-eyed. So moving and inspiring to see this.

    I use the ongoing “No Fracking in Stokes” campaign in my classes every semester when we talk about origins and intents of the First Amendment, or as Justice Brennan put it, the “central meaning.” Its highest purpose, he reasoned in New York Times v. Sullivan (1964), was as a mechanism for participation in self-government, and this post is a beautiful illustration of that.

    I’ve been asked to teach a news writing course in the fall, and we will use the fracking issue as a recurring theme of reporting throughout the semester. I will have my students blog about it and — who knows? — maybe take a field trip to Stokes County to see the First Amendment in action. We’ll add freedom of the press to your freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances. That’s four of the six clauses — not too shabby an exercise of our First Amendment rights.

    Keep going!

    Thursday, July 30, 2015 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *