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America’s free press offers diverse views on protests (June 29)
June 29, 2020

(State Dept./D. Thompson/Shutterstock)

The right to a free press is one of America’s most cherished liberties, fostering a wide-ranging discussion among citizens.

When demonstrators in U.S. cities protested the May 25 death of George Floyd and other instances of police officers’ use of excessive force, America’s editors and reporters gave voice to their concerns.

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo noted in a June 11 interview that authoritarian regimes, meanwhile, refuse to share information with the press and silence journalists.

“A free and independent media is indispensable to a vibrant, functioning democracy,” Pompeo said in a May 2019 tweet on World Press Freedom Day. “We reaffirm our commitment to protecting the safety and freedom for members of the press.”

(State Dept./S. Gemeny Wilkinson)

The right to a free press is enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, along with the freedoms of religion, speech and assembly and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.

Statements from newspapers, citizens and officials show how Americans value peaceful protest:

“To have lasting meaning and bring about genuine progress, this beginning must lead to new thinking, new cooperation and new action. … The work ahead for our city will be challenging, and Omahans must understand that these racial issues involve great frustration and pain for many minority residents.” — Omaha World-Herald, June 9

“Locally, the cries for reform and justice were mostly peaceful with a message focused on seeking harmony through understanding and communication. … What happened to George Floyd may have taken place in Minnesota, but it took place in America — a country we share, and that matters here.” — Amarillo Globe-News, June 4

“In Detroit and its surrounding suburbs, Floyd’s death has conjured the sort of urgent consensus rarely achieved. … Talk is cheap, but this remarkable consensus creates the momentum for real change: the persistent, diverse coalition of activists demanding change in the streets, the spectacle of the state’s most powerful leaders demanding aggressive measures to combat police brutality, and the agreement that a criminal justice system that disproportionately prosecutes and imprisons African Americans requires urgent reform.” — Detroit Free Press, June 4

“Every Texan and every American has the right to protest, and I encourage all Texans to exercise their First Amendment rights. However, violence against others and the destruction of property is unacceptable and counterproductive.” — Texas Governor Greg Abbott, May 31

“That’s what America is all about — having the right to freely express in a peaceful, organized manner.” — Jacob Ansley, of Amarillo, Texas, Amarillo Globe-News, May 31