Right to assemble is not a right to intimidate.

As the text of the First Amendment published at the top of this page suggests, this newspaper absolutely supports the rights guaranteed. That includes the right to peaceably assemble and seek redress of grievances from the government.

And, yes, we are aware a lot of hypocrisy often is involved. Conservatives were critical of protesters ringing the Wisconsin Capitol and singing obnoxious songs under the dome when then-Gov. Scott Walker proposed restrictions on public employee unions. Liberals have been critical of protesters going to the Capitol to demand reopening of Wisconsin in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

A cursory reading of the First Amendment above, though, clearly establishes an incontrovertible fact: The right to assemble is blind to the purpose of said assembly.

The key word is “peaceably.” To date—whether it’s the union protests or the reopening protests—Wisconsin citizens have remained peaceful. They may be loud. They may create a nuisance. But they do so within their rights.

Here, though, is where a line ought to be drawn.

Some anti-sheltering protesters in Michigan showed up with semi-automatic weapons. A number of them entered the Michigan Capitol while brandishing firearms.

This in a country that routinely witnesses mass shootings at businesses and schools. Come to think of it, an ironic side benefit to sheltering orders has been the lack of mass shootings, presumably because most businesses and schools are closed.

One does not need to carry a weapon—surely alarming some other folks and creating a potentially dangerous situation—at a key government building in order to make the point of a protest. If a state’s laws allow that kind of intimidating, bullying behavior then the state’s laws are wrong and ought to be changed.