Researcher ORCID Identifier

Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis


Best Senior Thesis in Government

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

George Thomas

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This thesis looks to ground the importance of a vigorous right to assemble in the history of the United States. I argue that given the events of the last year, the current Supreme Court doctrine that limits assembly and association to expressive purposes is too restrictive and fundamentally misunderstands group rights. Instead, I argue that the Supreme Court must reinvigorate the right to assemble in order to protect democratic governance.

I begin with the history of assembly in the United States in Chapter II, which demonstrates how assemblies have been utilized by minority groups as a means to exercise political power. It also demonstrates how assembly came to be constrained by permit requirements, speech jurisprudence, and time, place and manner restrictions over the 20th century. In Chapter III, I explore the history of association, as it was split from assembly in 1958 and subsumed by expressive requirements in subsequent years. In Chapter IV, I review the concerns of four different theorists on assembly, two of which focus on in-person gatherings and two of which focus on group autonomy. These theories, combined with the history in Chapter II and III, offer a substantial framework through which to understand the events of 2020 and 2021. This is what I analyze in Chapter V, focusing on the Black Lives Matter movement, the January 6th attack on the Capitol, and new anti-protest laws. I conclude that the Supreme Court must reinvigorate the right to assemble as it contributes to self-governance.