(Chicago) “The people have a right, in an orderly and peaceable manner, to assemble to consult upon the common good; give instructions to their representatives, and to request of the legislative body, by the way of addresses, petitions, or remonstrances, redress of the wrongs done them, and of the grievances they suffer.” — Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Art. XIX (1780)
Todd Gitlin, who spoke at Tufts on Wednesday, said that provisions like this one exist in about 30 states. It is the phrase “to consult upon the common good” that interests me (and Gitlin). It is different from a right to speak; in consulting upon the common good, one must also listen to peers in some structured way. These provisions testify to a deep tradition of public deliberation in American ideals and practices. And perhaps they create enforceable rights. When local authorities decided to clear “Occupy” encampments, did anyone ask whether the participants were being denied their rights under state constitutions to “assemble to consult upon the common good”?