Jan 13, 2022
Martin Luther King Jr. sat in jail for eight days for peacefully protesting without a permit. He had tried to get the required permit several times, but Birmingham officials wouldn’t give it to him. The policy wasn’t merely about permits, but about giving officials the power to silence those they don’t agree with—namely, those who opposed segregation. King called this an “unjust, undemocratic, and unconstitutional misuse of the legal process.” He wrote these words from a jail cell in 1963, and yet this insidious problem still persists in America today. Nearly 60 years since King was arrested, governments and authorities across the United States use vague permitting policies to stop Americans from exercising their constitutional rights. For America to be a healthy and free society, we have to stay committed to open discourse and the free exchange of ideas—working together to protect our shared destiny of freedom and justice for all.