Protest and Petition

Students who know their rights will help ensure that those rights are not ignored. The right to protest is based in the First Amendment rights to assemble to voice objections and to petition government to provide relief to grievances.
Additional Disciplines 

The Declaration of Independence and First Amendment. Boston Tea Party and Tea Party movement. Resurrection City and Occupy K Street. Through solitary pleas, marches, sit-ins and protests at home and in D.C., Americans have demonstrated they have the right to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Their causes have encompassed all sides of the social, economic and political spectrum — taxes, suffrage, civil rights, wars, more government and less government involvement.

Since their rights to voice opposition and to seek change have limits, the parties involved have sought a balance between practicing guaranteed rights and protecting the public safety, security and order.

At the one-year anniversary of the Arab Spring, protests, armed revolts, government uncertainties and first elections are taking place across North Africa and the Middle East. This tumultuous change was activated by one man’s act of self-immolation.

Activities in this guide cross disciplines to study protests at home and around the world. Resources include a vocabulary development, study questions, and two lessons written by a Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project fellow. Post reprints provide news, commentary, editorial cartoons, maps and informational graphics. Two e-Replica suggested activities in this guide focus on researching global protests and evaluating Occupy D.C. coverage.


Arab Spring Resources

Develop Vocabulary
English, Government, History

In the Know,” is a list of terms to be found in The Post articles and commentary reprinted in this guide. These terms may be given to students for vocabulary study separately or in conjunction with articles such as “The Arab Winter.”


Add a Root
Art, Civics, English, Government, History, Reading

Many words that distinguish types of government are based on the Greek word ocracy or cracy, meaning “power,” “rule” and “government.” Teachers might begin this activity by giving students the editorial cartoon by Clay Bennett, editorial cartoonist of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “Egypt” was reprinted in 2010 in The Washington Post’s Saturday Drawing Board weekly collection.

If students are unfamiliar with the role of editorial cartoonists, teachers may need to explain that they provide visual commentary on current issues. Bennett’s cartoon, “Egypt,” was published on Feb. 1, 2011. Questions might include:

  • What is the main image in the cartoon? With what country are pyramids associated?
  • What is the figure toppling from the pyramid? What does this act represent?
  • What does “autocracy” mean? How is this pertinent to current events happening in Egypt in early 2011?
  • What does the dress of the pairs of men carrying pyramidions, or capstones, indicate?
  • What kind of government will Egypt build? How do the pyramidions “DEM” and “THE” represent the choices?
  • What do you know about the ancient culture and history that form the foundation of Egypt’s “ocracy”?

Give students “Word Study.” This activity sheet defines the Greek terms –ocracy and –cracy. It then features words for the types of government; each of which has the two Greek terms as the suffix. In the middle column, students should identify the root of the term and its meaning. In the right column, students should define the word. Answers for the questions are to be found at the end of these suggested activities.

Draw a Root
Art, Journalism

After students have discussed Bennett’s editorial cartoon and studied the etymologies of “democracy,” theocracy” and “autocracy,” they may be asked to select a term from the “In the Know” list or one that they select from their reading. Find the etymology of the word. Draw a cartoon that explains the word’s meaning or plays on its etymology.

Go Inside Coverage
Journalism, Mass Media, News Literacy

INSIDER articles go behind the scenes at The Post to give a sense of how things are done or how we got the story and photographs. This month’s INSIDER features Patrick B. Pexton’s “The Post’s coverage of Occupy D.C.” Pexton is the ombudsman, the liaison between readers and The Post.

Pexton is responding to inquiries about the type and amount of coverage being given to protests in D.C., in particular, Occupy D.C. Discuss the examples he gives and the point of view he takes.

Teachers may wish to use articles reprinted in this guide to accompany the column — “Issa challenges Occupy D.C.’s claim to McPherson Square” and “Park Service says it will begin enforcing ‘no-camping’ law for Occupy D.C. protestors at McPherson Square” — and Courtland Milloy’s column, “Occupy D.C. has a plan: To stay in the public’s face.” Analyze the articles for fairness and diversity of coverage.

Evaluate Coverage
Civics, Government, Journalism, Reading

Readers have written to The Post’s ombudsman about coverage of Occupy D.C. and other protests and demonstrations in D.C. Read "The Post’s coverage of Occupy D.C.” for those points of view. Conduct an e-Replica search to evaluate the depth of coverage given to Occupy D.C. and other demonstrations held in D.C.

Divide the class into three groups, each with a different week to do a three-week search of the most recent past issues of The Post. Within each group, students could be assigned to search for “Occupy D.C.,” “protests” and “demonstrations” in each section of the newspaper. What other search terms might students use?

Be sure to include news, features, columnists, editorials and editorial cartoons. For example, Metro columnist Robert McCartney has written often on the topic. See what results a search by his name will provide.

Student should evaluate the search. This would include:

  • How many news articles, features, commentary, editorials and editorial cartoons were found?
  • How many words or column inches have been given to this topic?
  • Are different points of view included? For example, are city officials, police officers, protesters, nearby businesses, citizens and visitors quoted? Who provides the legal perspective?

Comment on Toles
Art, History, Government, Journalism

Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles has produced many visual commentaries on events, leaders and governments in the Middle East and North Africa. Four of them are reproduced in this guide. Give students “Tom Toles: On the Revolution in the Middle East.

Toles uses iconic figures, symbolism and allusions to literature and historic events and figures. Discuss those that students “read” in each commentary.

As an editorial cartoonist, Toles is expressing his opinion. To what events is he referring? What is his point of view of the current event?

Students might be asked to analyze one of Toles’ editorial cartoons. They may also be asked to draw their own editorial cartoon about what is happening currently in one of these countries.

Study the Right of Assembly
Civics, Government, History, Journalism, Media Arts

Some Assembly Required” is a multi-part activity to introduce students to the First Amendment “right of the people peaceably to assemble.” This activity is one of our YOU and YOUR RIGHTS lessons prepared by Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project fellows. Jason Whittle, a third-year law student, wrote this lesson. Jason will graduate in May 2012 from American University Washington College of Law. During the 2010-2011 school year, he co-taught a course called Youth Justice in America at Capital City Public Charter School in Washington, D.C.

Some Assembly Required” begins with background on the right of assembly and current application. This file is followed with two case studies: “Dirk De Jong’s Story,” the basis for the Supreme Court case of De Jonge v. State of Oregon, and “Even People With Unattractive Views May Meet,” the National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie case.

Our Rights Have Limits” provides the three conditions under which the right of assembly may be limited. Students will apply the concepts from all files to answer questions about a situation and in “The Freedom of Assembly and the Occupy Movement” case study.

Although students have the conceptual information they need to answer the questions in The Freedom of Assembly and the Occupy Movement” from the background and historic case study materials, teachers may wish to give students reprinted articles about Occupy D.C. to read.

Study the Right to Petition

Civics, Government, History

“The First Amendment simply says that people have a right to complain and to request that the government fix some problem or right some wrong,” writes third-year law student Jason Whittle. “Citizens have freedom, therefore, to make complaints to their elected officials, and to seek assistance from them, without fear of punishment.”

In The Continuing Importance of the Right to Petition,” Whittle begins with the historic background of the right to petition, one of the primary reasons for the American Revolution. He provides two cases: Representative John Quincy Adams in 1834 and recent petitions in Wisconsin.

On the Drawing Board

Identify Historic Protests

Civics, Government, History

Protests and Protestors” presents 18 significant protests that have taken place in the United States and around the world, beginning with the Boston Tea Party. In addition, 14 individuals who were involved in protests or the theory of protesting are listed.

This activity asks students to conduct research. They will discover that students, workers, and mature thinkers used protest as a means to call attention to issues and conditions. Some were successful, others were not.

Review the Arab Spring
Government, History, Journalism

Many of the vocabulary words found in "In the Know” sidebar are found in the article “The Arab Winter.” Before giving the analysis to students, teachers may wish to review the terms as well as “ouster, “ “power,” “disdain,” “ethnically homogenous,” “parliament” and “cult of personality.”

Review the map of Arab Spring Countries. Locate the following countries: Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen.

Explain to students the difference between a news article and an analysis. The Outlook section provides Sunday readers commentary from many experts. Read and discuss “The Arab Winter.” The title reflects the author’s attitude. What is it?

Divide the class into groups: Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen. Among the project’s assignments, teachers could include:

  • Prepare a country profile: location, population, sources of income, brief history.
  • Summarize the information that Daniel Byman presents about the assigned country.
  • Read a minimum of five articles about the current political, economic and social conditions. Compare and contrast the views presented in them to Byman’s.
  • Analyze the relation and interaction of the assigned country with other countries in the region.
  • Form a group prediction about the future of the country.

Depending on your classes, teachers can determine the different forms of presentation that will be required.

Read About Libyans After Gadaffi
Government, History, Journalism

Post reporters provide follow-up articles to major stories. “For Libyans, democracy from scratch” is such an article. It answers readers’ questions about what is happening in Libya a year after the rebellion.

When teachers give students the article to read, please note the information provided in the headline and subheads. The dateline clearly states that Alice Fordham is reporting from Tripoli in Libya. Locate it on a map.

Give students Challenges of Creating a Government,” a worksheet to complete after reading the article.

Use the Internet
Government, Technology

Social media played a prominent role in the Arab Spring protests. Discuss the use of blogs, e-mails and tweets. What are the benefits and downside of each?

Teachers might challenge students to use their understanding of the election process, political parties, ballots and verification of winning candidates to create an informative website.

Read About It

Find Medvedev on Facebook
Government, Technology

The Washington Post Young Journalist Development Program has a Facebook page. So do many Post reporters. Even the Russian president has a Facebook page.

“Medvedev derided for Facebook post announcing probe of election fraud” provides the political and social conditions in Russia in mid-December 2011. After reports of election fraud, President Dmitry Medvedev disclosed on his Facebook page "he had ordered an investigation." Read and discuss the article by Kathy Lally.

Questions might include:

  • Why would President Dmitry Medvedev have a Facebook page?
  • Are students surprised that individuals commented on Medvedev’s postings? Lally wrote they “revealed astonishing candor and courage.” Why “courage”? Give examples of their candor from the article.
  • What did Russians protest in December? Who primarily protested?
  • What did the head of the Central Election Commission say he would do? In what ways do both of his approaches reflect the same old way of reacting to any opposition?

Search for Global Protests
Geography, Government, History, Reading

This e-Replica activity focuses on protests that took place in January 2012. All 15 of the countries listed had protests and demonstrations taking place. Give students “Global Protests.”

By identifying the countries on the world map, students get geography practice. In addition to the map in the activity sheet, use “Africa” to locate the countries within the continent of Africa. Teachers may pair students to search for information to answer the questions.

Teachers may wish to set up an e-mail alert using the MY MONITOR feature to get updates on “protests” or a particular country. Select MY MONITOR and click on “Add New Monitor.” On this screen, insert the search term and frequency of notification. Teachers are allowed a total of ten monitor alerts at one time.

Read It In the Comics
Art, English, Government

Protestors are seen wearing masks in the likeness of Guy Fawkes, created by comic-book writer Alan Moore and artist David Lloyd in V For Vendetta. Superman, in “The Incident,” Action Comics #900, incenses the president’s national security advisor for being in Tehran giving non-violent support to protestors.

Just as editorial cartoonists and comic strip writers comment on current events and principles in their work, comic-book writers and artists also incorporate these concepts and actions in their works.

Do students who read comic books know of examples of protests appearing in that medium? Discuss the reason for the demonstrations and their results.

In The Know 
Activist Monarch
Assembly Pluralism
Civil Disobedience  Protest
Democracy  Public Opinion
Demonstration  Regime
Dictator  Roil
Dissenter  Turmoil
Dissent  Tyranny
Insurgency  Upheaval
Junta  Warlord

ANSWERS"Word Study"

1. The Pope

2. Boy or child

3. Male head of a family or tribal line, person regarded as the father or founder, scriptural father. Likewise, a matriarch is the female ruler.

4. An anarchist is an individual who rebels against authority, rejects the need for a system of government.

5. Government by money or wealth; silver was an item of great value.

6. Andro — meaning male

7. Artistos — meaning best; through cultural influence “best” came to be the nobility

8. Government by civil servants; bureau means office

9. Meritum — Latin meaning to deserve

10. Political system in which a mob is the source of control.

11. Undivided rule by a single person who has absolute power; the Greek word for monarch was monarkhos or one + to rule. There is also the word “monocracy” which is a synonym of autocrat, one ruler or rule by a single person.

12. Oligos — meaning few

13. Ploutos — meaning wealth

14. Government by military rule or despotism; stratos was Greek for army

15. Government by a body of foreigners; xenos meant stranger and later foreigner

ANSWERS "Challenges of Creating a Government"

1. a. Libyan rebel commander Muhammad Zintani and prime minister Mahmoud Jibril; 
b. The void between the fall of autocratic leader Gaddafi and elections is full of uncertainty; 
c. This paragraph lists the missing basic items for holding elections and avoidance of chaos; 
d. The quotation from UN envoy Martin supports the reporter and Libyans have indicated. The role of the U.N. in planning for the elections is confirmed.

2. a. Lawyer Bugaighis: among the protestors, female activist who observed Tunisia’s elections, aware that males dominate current culture. She is realistic about Libyans’ lack of experience with elections, freedom and democracy. 
b. Ian Martin: U.N. envoy, presents an experienced outsider’s perspective. He represents those who will work to set up honest elections and establish a new, stable government. 
c. Housam Najjair: Libyan-Irish citizen, one of the armed rebels, fought for freedom from Gaddafi rather than for democracy. He will form a political party with goals to improve employment, medical conditions; he knows he has much to learn how to balance politics with the culture and religious norms. 
d. Fawzia Tajjoura: teacher, will use media and social media to learn about elections. 
e. Basheer Zaid: a fruit stall owner, who is realistic about the old ways of tribe against tribe; it will take time to understand how to get an elected government.

3. Answers will vary.

4. Answers will vary. Is there a recipe for a perfect democratic government?

District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

English: Determine meanings, pronunciations, contextually appropriate synonyms and antonyms, replacement words and phrases, etymologies, and correct spellings of words using dictionaries, thesauri, histories of language, and books of quotations (Strand Language Development, Vocabulary and Concept Development, 9.LD-V.9)

US Government: Students evaluate and take and defend positions on the scope and limits of rights and obligations as democratic citizens, the relationships among them, and how they are secured

a. Discuss the meaning and importance of each of the rights guaranteed under the Bill of Rights and how each is secured (e.g., freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, petition) 12.8

World History and Geography II, The Industrial Revolution to the Modern Age: Students analyze major developments in Africa since World War II. 11. Describe the challenges in the region, including its geopolitical, cultural, military, and economic significance and the international relationships in which it is involved (Era VIII, Grade 10)

Click here for Learning Standards for DCPS.

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

Geography: Use geographic tools to locate places and describe the human and physical characteristics in the contemporary world a. Use maps to compare geographic locations of places and regions (Standard 3.0, Grade 7)

Government: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the historical development and current status of principles, institutions and processes of political systems (Goal 1, Political Systems)

• The student will analyze historic documents to determine the basic principles of United States government and apply them to real-world situations Goal 1, Indicator 1.1.1)

Government: The student will evaluate how the United States government has maintained a balance between protecting rights and maintaining order (Goal 1, Political Systems, Expectation 1.2)

Government: The student will compare and evaluate the effectiveness of the United States system of government and various other political systems (Goal 2, Peoples of The Nation and World, Indicator 2.2)

Click here for The Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum Content Standards.

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

History and Social Studies: The student will demonstrate knowledge of civil liberties and civil rights by

a) examining the Bill of Rights, with emphasis on First Amendment freedoms ;

d) exploring the balance between individual liberties and the public interest;

e) explaining every citizen’s right to be treated equally under the law (Virginia and United States Government, 11)

Civics and Economics: The student will demonstrate knowledge of citizenship and the rights, duties and responsibilities of citizens by

b) describing the First Amendment freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition, and the rights guaranteed by due process and equal protection of the laws;

d) examining the responsibilities of citizenship, including registering and voting, communicating with government officials, participating in political campaigns, keeping informed about current issues, and respecting differing opinions in a diverse society (CE.3)

Fine Arts, Visual Arts: The students will investigate and discuss the use of social, cultural, and historic context as they contribute to meaning in a work of art. (Judgment and Criticism, 8.17)

Fine Arts, Visual Communication and Production: The student will select among a range of subject matter, symbols, meaningful images, and media to communicate personal expression. (AIV.6)

Click here for Standards of Learning currently in effect for Virginia Public Schools.