The First Amendment protects several basic freedoms: Freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the right to petition the government,  and especially the freedom of speech and the right to peacefully assemble.

As American citizens, we need to honor our rights to the best of our ability by not taking them for granted or misinterpretation making the power of the words less effective. It’s important to understand that along with our rights, comes an inherent responsibility.

Here are three useful tips for making your right to assemble and freedom of speech more significant.

1. People are entitled to assemble, to speak  and to be heard as long as they remain nonviolent. It’s important to stay focused on your message and not stray from the original intent. As an example, if you’re in support of small locally owned businesses during COVID-19 quarantine, then display that message with rally chants and signage. Straying from your message shrieking conspiracy theories like “Hillary and Pizzagate,” you’ve lost your message and people will no longer take you seriously.

2. If you open the rally with the National Anthem, the proper “Star-Spangled Banner protocol” should be applied. The etiquette is pretty clear: Stand, remove your cap, face the flag, place the right hand over heart, and sing along. When singing the Star-Spangled Banner, it’s effectual to sing the correct words. Consider handing out leaflets of proper protocol and anthem lyrics to participants. Here’s the thing, if you can’t honor the flag appropriately or even know the words to the National Anthem, you may want to rethink your position the next time you criticize a football player for kneeling during the National Anthem.

3. American singer Johnny Cash once sang, “Don't take your guns to town, son. Leave your guns at home, Bill. Don't take your guns to town.” As true as those words were back in 1958 when the song was first released, today they are just as profound.

Remember how we’re entitled to peacefully assemble? While guns are a symbol of protection, they are also a symbol of violence. If you need to “open carry” to get your message across instead of using your voice, rally chants, signage and shared fellowship then how valuable is your message?

Unless you’re attending a rally to defend the Second Amendment, don’t take your guns to town, son.

 Catie McIntyre Walker

 College Place