The folks running Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport are advised to take a rudimentary course on the First Amendment to the US Constitution. No, blocking airport access roads is not a valid exercise of First Amendment rights.
Washington National Airport Is Wrong: Blocking Access To Airport Roads Is Not A Valid Exercise Of First Amendment Rights
Over the weekend, officials from National Airport in Washington, DC warned:
TRAFFIC ALERT: Expect delays around the airport due to a group in vehicles exercising first amendment rights in roadway. Use caution and expect slow moving vehicles.
🔺TRAFFIC ALERT: Expect delays around the airport due to a group in vehicles exercising first amendment rights in roadway. Use caution and expect slow moving vehicles. Recommend @Wmata to access airport.
— Reagan Airport (@Reagan_Airport) January 20, 2024
Small problem: there is no First Amendment right to block traffic.
As the ACLU rightly notes, “Protesters do not have a First Amendment right to block pedestrian or vehicle traffic, or to prevent entry and exit from buildings…Indeed, the general public has a right to freedom of movement that police must protect.”
Indeed, we do have a constitutionally-protected right to travel. But we don’t have the right to block traffic or yell “fire” in a crowded theatre.
I’m not advocating for the right to run over protestors after warning them a number of times to move out of the way. Some states have considered this approach but that is a bit much. I’m also not calling for water cannons or police dogs to clear them. But the police should arrest these people promptly and if it was a hospital they were blocking and I was trying to take a loved one there, all bets are off.
You’ll note, I did not mention what these folks were protesting. That’s because it does not matter what they were protesting. No matter how grievous or egregious your cause, you cannot block roads. Period.
For being so close the heart of government and Supreme Court, DCA Airport is woefully blind when it come to what it means to express the right of free speech. Protestors who block traffic are not exercising protected speech and should be arrested and severely fined.