15 Freedom of Assembly Examples

15 Freedom of Assembly ExamplesReviewed by Chris Drew (PhD)

This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The review process on Helpful Professor involves having a PhD level expert fact check, edit, and contribute to articles. Reviewers ensure all content reflects expert academic consensus and is backed up with reference to academic studies. Dr. Drew has published over 20 academic articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.

freedom of assembly example and definition, explained below

Freedom of assembly is the right of people to come together peacefully and express their shared values. 

It is a type of freedom that ensures that people can gather to raise awareness about issues that matter to them and advocate for change.

The freedom of assembly is an essential civil liberty within any functioning democracy as it allows people to raise their voices against unjust government/institutional action. However, governments often try to restrict them through various measures, which is quite a controversial issue. 

Freedom of Assembly Definition

The Human Rights Act 1998 (which describes the fundamental rights of UK citizens) defines freedom of assembly in the following way:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.” (Human Rights Act, 1998)

Another definition comes from the First Amendment of the United States Constitution:

“the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” 

This right has a long history, going back to the Middle Ages in Europe, and remains an essential human right today. 

Throughout the centuries that people fought for political power, the freedom of assembly was one of the most important rights that they pursued. This is because it allows people to put public pressure on a government through actions like demonstrations, marches, public speeches, etc.

Many governments, on the other hand, have been suspicious of assemblies. They often view them as lawless mobs: if people are not meeting under government auspices, they might have anti-government purposes in mind (Lewis, 1999).

Therefore, governments often try to control them through common raw restrictions on crowd behavior, such as laws against riots and conspiracy (Robertson, 2005). This is why all rights statements inevitably qualify “assembly” with the term “peaceful”. What is considered “non-peaceful” and when the government can restrict assemblies are all controversial questions having no definite answers.

Freedom of Assembly Examples

1. Organizing a Peaceful Protest

Real-Life Example: The Women’s March in 2017

Organizing a peaceful protest represents your right to protest peacefully. It is a quintessential exhibition of the freedom of assembly to voice societal concerns and strive for change.

The Women’s March of 2017 serves as a pertinent example. It was one of the largest single-day protests in U.S history, where women across the country united to advocate for gender equality and women’s rights. They assembled en masse, offering a striking visual of the power this right can wield. It gave individuals a platform to collectively challenge systemic issues.

2. Holding a Public Meeting

Real-Life Example: Town hall gatherings to discuss local policies

Holding a public meeting is a fundamental right. Town hall meetings serve as prime examples.

At town hall gatherings, community members come together to discuss matters of local importance, such as policy changes. The open forum allows for an enriched dialogue where diverse opinions are both encouraged and respected. This act endorses the promotion of balanced and inclusive discourse.

Thus, public meetings epitomize the vital role freedom of assembly has in democracy, highlighting its importance in facilitating constructive societal conversations.

See Also: Freedom of Speech Examples

3. Forming a Club or Society

Real-Life Example: A local gardening club

Forming a club or society denotes the exercise of assembly rights, where individuals organize to pursue shared interests.

The concrete example of a local gardening club illuminates this right. Here, members join together, sharing a common love for gardening, and meet regularly to exchange ideas and techniques. Such gatherings not only foster a sense of community but also cultivate collective knowledge and shared experiences.

Clubs or societies like these allow for the exchange of ideas and camaraderie among enthusiasts, thereby promoting socialization. Hence, the formation of clubs or societies is a testament to the freedom of assembly, encouraging community development through shared passions.

4. Organizing a Rally or Demonstration

Real-Life Example: Climate change rallies held worldwide

Rallies and demonstrations are potent tools for asserting societal concerns collectively.

Climate change rallies held worldwide are illustrative of this premise. These rallies mobilize individuals who are passionate about mitigating climate change, providing them a platform to voice their concerns and demand action.

Through these congregations, messages are amplified, igniting wider discourse and stimulating potential change. The sheer global scale of these rallies underscores the power and scope of the freedom to assemble. As this example shows, organizing rally or demonstration is a crucial embodiment of the freedom of assembly, highlighting its ability to galvanize change on a global scale.

5. Starting a Support Group

Real-Life Example: Meetings for parents of children with autism

Creating a support group typifies the utilization of freedom of assembly for mutual assistance. An example can be meetings for parents of children with autism.

Through such forums, parents can connect, share their experiences, derive emotional support and learn from each other. These gatherings foster a sense of understanding, empathy, and community among its members.

In providing essential emotional and informational resources, these support groups validate the potency of assembly rights in empowering people amidst adversity. Therefore, the formation of support groups demonstrates a compassionate application of the freedom of assembly, underscoring its role in creating supportive communities.

6. Conducting Workshops or Seminars

Real-Life Example: A workshop on sustainable living

Conducting workshops or seminars resides within the umbrella of the right to assembly. As illustrated by workshops on sustainable living, participants gather to acquire new knowledge, skills, or to participate in critical discussions.

Such workshops often serve as an educational catalyst, promoting learning, and fostering awareness on pressing issues.

Furthermore, they act as forums for exchanging ideas, thus enriching societal dialogue. With a practical focus, these events demonstrate how constructive collective engagement can be. Thus, conducting workshops or seminars highlights the role of the freedom of assembly in fostering learning and promoting sustainability.

7. Hosting a Conference

Real-Life Example: Annual tech conferences like CES in Las Vegas

Hosting conferences is another expression of the right to assembly.

Take for instance, the annual tech conferences like CES in Las Vegas. In these large-scale events, industry professionals congregate to share knowledge, explore innovations, and foster collaborations. Such assemblies not only accelerate industry growth but also facilitate the exchange of ideas across borders.

The branching thought leadership and innovation that arise from these conferences attest to the prolific impact of collective gatherings. Consequently, hosting conferences testifies to how the freedom of assembly underpins industry development and global connections.

8. Organizing Communal Religious Events

Real-Life Example: Christmas Eve candlelight services

The freedom to organize communal religious events is a key manifestation of assembly rights. Christmas Eve candlelight services, for instance, bring communities together in spiritual observance.

Participants gather to commemorate their shared faith, enhancing communal bonds in the process. The harmonious congregation of individuals to worship together highlights the core principle of unity fostered by assembly rights.

These events reflect respect for cultural diversity and individual beliefs. In essence, organizing communal religious events demonstrate how freedom of assembly supports religious freedom and cultivates community harmony.

See Also: Freedom of Religion Examples

9. Setting up Street Performances

Real-Life Example: Buskers gathering in a park

Setting up street performances is an artistic expression of the freedom to assemble. Buskers gathering in a park, for example, draw together musicians, artists, and observers into a shared communal experience.

The performers provide live entertainment, transforming public spaces into spontaneous stages. Simultaneously, audiences get the chance to enjoy and appreciate diverse art forms. The congregation of performers and spectators alike validates the richness of cultural expression within our societies.

Therefore, street performances depict how the freedom of assembly can celebrate and elevate the arts, encouraging cultural vibrancy in public spaces.

10. Hosting Cultural Festivals

Real-Life Example: Diwali celebrations in various cities

Hosting cultural festivals exercises the right to assembly by celebrating shared cultural heritage. Consider the example of Diwali celebrations spanning various cities.

During Diwali, a congregation of people comes together to participate in festivities, lights, and communal joy. These gatherings not only honor shared traditions but also promote cultural understanding among diverse attendees.

Cultural festivals like Diwali underscore the value of the freedom of assembly in preserving heritage, promoting pluralism, and fostering cross-cultural exchanges.

Therefore, hosting cultural festivals showcases how the freedom of assembly can uphold and propagate cultural richness and diversity.

11. Organizing Fundraisers

Real-Life Example: Walkathons for cancer research

Organizing fundraisers is a philanthropic usage of the right to assemble. Walkathons for cancer research serve as strong examples.

Such events gather participants to collectively contribute towards a cause, in this case, raising funds for cancer research. Fundraisers like walkathons are integral to generating necessary funding for research, aid, and supporting services.

The collective drive and dedication these events exhibit underline the power of collective efforts in impacting societal health and wellbeing. Hence, organizing fundraisers exemplifies how the freedom of assembly can galvanize societal support for noble causes.

12. Hosting Educational Camps

Real-Life Example: Summer camps focused on science and tech

Educational camps offer another application of the freedom to assemble. Summer camps focused on science and tech, for instance, bring together interested young minds to explore these fields.

Through interactive sessions and hands-on experiments, participants gain knowledge outside of conventional classroom constraints. These gatherings not only nurture interest and skills in STEM subjects but also cultivate camaraderie among campers.

The freedom to assemble is crucial in providing these enriching educational experiences, underlining the importance of assembly rights in education. Therefore, hosting educational camps displays how the freedom of assembly fosters learning and intellectual growth in unconventional settings.

13. Initiating Civic Engagement Activities

Real-Life Example: Voter registration drives

Civic engagement activities showcase the political aspect of freedom of assembly. Voter registration drives are a perfect example.

These initiatives assemble volunteers and community members to encourage voter registration, thus promoting electoral participation. By ensuring the community is involved in the democratic process, these gatherings foster active citizenship, uphold democratic values, and strengthen the political health of communities.

Civic engagement activities like voter registration drives underline the significant role of freedom of assembly in facilitating political participation. Thus, initiating civic engagement activities demonstrates that the freedom of assembly can nurture active citizenship, fostering democratic processes at a grassroots level.

14. Starting Neighborhood Watch Groups

Real-Life Example: Communities banding together for safety

Starting neighborhood watch groups is yet another facet of the freedom of assembly. Communities banding together for safety perfectly illustrates this right.

Through these groups, residents assemble to ensure community safety, fostering a sense of security and togetherness. Members share responsibilities, patrol neighborhoods, and maintain vigilance, thus enhancing community protection.

Consequently, these groups mark the significant role of assembly rights in nurturing local alliances and enhancing community well-being. Starting neighborhood watch groups thus encapsulates how the freedom of assembly can contribute to fostering safer and stronger communities.

15. Holding Sporting Events

Real-Life Example: Local marathon runs for charity

Lastly, holding sporting events is an expression of the freedom to assemble with a competitive and charitable spin. Local marathon runs for charity are brilliant examples.

These events assemble participants to compete in a sport while supporting a worthy cause. They promote community spirit, encourage physical fitness, and raise funds for various charities.

The freedom to assemble is key in making these events possible, showcasing how collective efforts can contribute positively to society. Thus, holding sporting events illustrates how the freedom of assembly can foster community spirit, health awareness, and philanthropic endeavors.

See Also: Economic Freedom Examples

Violations of Freedom of Assembly

Governments have always been suspicious of assemblies, and they often violate the freedom of assembly by suppressing critical voices through arrest, violence, or threats.

Without public gatherings, the government would do whatever it pleases and also claim that it has the unanimous support of the people. At the same time, the people may remain unaware of their own power and the degree of existing opposition to a government (Lewis).

This is why authoritarian states put severe restrictions on the right to free assembly: their unjust rule would collapse otherwise. For example, in the 1930s & 1940s, the German authorities created a society where the right to assemble (and most other human rights) did not exist. 

In partial reaction to WWII Germany, the United Nations made the freedom of assembly a central part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 20 gives all people “the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association” (Lewis).

But despite the UN Declaration, many authoritarian regimes have continued to deny their citizens the right to assemble.

In Chile, General Augusto Pinochet’s soldiers would round up demonstrators, who would never be found. Under apartheid, South African police shot water canons at protestors, some of whom died in police custody. 

Even in democratic states, violations are not uncommon. Either legal provisions criminalize those participating in assemblies or the interpretations of laws are manipulated to legitimize the arrest of peaceful protestors (Human Rights House). 

In Israel, the police and the army have often attacked Palestinian demonstrators demanding more rights. Even in the United States, there have been violations: African-Americans marching for civil rights during the 1960s were attacked with dogs & fire hoses. In 1970, National Guard soldiers fired against Kent State University students, killing four and injuring many others. 

Today, governments are also trying to block social media and communication tools (like blocking the internet) to hinder the organization of protests. States should refrain from such abusive practices and instead facilitate the smooth conduction of protests.

Public gatherings provide a platform for open and pluralistic dialogue, allowing people to voice their concerns. They are a peaceful way of challenging authority, so countries should have clear and fair provisions on the right to assemble.

Conclusion

Freedom of assembly is the right of people to assemble together and express their views.

It is an essential component of democracy as it allows people to challenge the government’s authority. Without public gatherings, the government would do as it pleases, and this is why authoritarian regimes do not allow the right to assemble.

But not just them, even democratic governments are often guilty of violating the freedom of assembly. They often manipulate the law to legitimize the arrest of peaceful protestors and are now also using new-age technology to curb dissent. However, public gatherings are necessary for any civil society, and they should be encouraged through fair legal provisions.

References

Equality and Human Rights Commission. (2021). Article 11: Freedom of assembly and association. Retrieved from: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/human-rights-act/article-11-freedom-assembly-and-association

Humans Right House Foundation (2023). Freedom of assembly. Retrieved from: https://humanrightshouse.org/we-stand-for/freedom-of-assembly/

Lewis, J. R. (1999). The Human Rights Encyclopedia. New York: Sharpe Reference. 

Robertson, D. (2005). A Dictionary of Human Rights. London: Taylor & Francis Group.

Sourabh Yadav is a freelance writer & filmmaker. He studied English literature at the University of Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru University. You can find his work on The Print, Live Wire, and YouTube.

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This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The review process on Helpful Professor involves having a PhD level expert fact check, edit, and contribute to articles. Reviewers ensure all content reflects expert academic consensus and is backed up with reference to academic studies. Dr. Drew has published over 20 academic articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.

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