The Constitution - and its guards - should protect, not punish

Last week we learned that the security staff at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. has a bit of an interesting interpretation of one of the documents they protect. At a viewing of the Constitution, multiple visitors who had been part of John Niremberg’s impeachment march were told to leave because of the clothing they were wearing. As they had just come from the impeachment march, many had slogans such as “Impeach Bush + Cheney” or “Arrest Bush” printed on T-shirts.

In the journalism world, we tend to be pretty big supporters of the First Amendment, which is on permanent display at the National Archives, for its protection of both the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. The visitors, protected by the First Amendment and the Constitution, should not expect to run into any trouble visiting the document which has set the foundation for protecting the impeachment march.

It seems there was a disconnect between the National Archives rules prohibiting protesting and the guards’ inability to differentiate protesting from protesters. The guards were (strangely) forthcoming, quoted in a news article from as saying, “You need to leave because of your T-shirt.” One of the marchers, Suzanne Haviland, said a guard had said to her: “The reason I’m stopping you is that you are wearing something that criticizes the President. I’m a federal employee, and I’m not allowed to criticize the President,” according to an article on

Faced with an irony so compelling, we are left wondering if the security staff are so brainwashed by their jobs that they entirely misunderstand the early legislature of our country, which they are tasked to protect.

As the 21st century trudges forward, we have to wonder if the rights granted to us over 200 years ago are being swept away for a false sense of national security and a forced pride in our current government.