The Occasional Tyrannies of Governing Majorities

by Michael R. Mitchell

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The title of this paper is drawn from an opinion by Justice Brandeis in 1927, extensively quoted in this paper: "Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the state was to make men free to develop their faculties....Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed." This and similar quotations from Justice Holmes and from the First Amendment are contrasted with accounts of two peaceful assemblies of protestors (at San Fernando Valley State College, January 9, 1969; and in Philadelphia, April 6, 1968) that were declared unlawful assemblies, the demonstrators arrested and convicted, and their convictions upheld in a Los Angeles court (for the first case) and by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Philadelphia case. Public impatience with violent protest seems to have led to insensitivity to the inalienable rights of peaceful protest.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

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