Unlawful Assembly as Social Control

52 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2016 Last revised: 24 Jan 2017

See all articles by John D. Inazu

John D. Inazu

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law

Date Written: March 29, 2016


Recent public protests from Occupy to Ferguson have highlighted anew the offense of unlawful assembly. This Article advances the simple but important thesis that contemporary approaches to unlawful assembly cede too much discretion to law enforcement. Too many unlawful assembly provisions neglect important elements of earlier statutory formulations. They also ignore constitutional principles meant to constrain the scope and extent of discretionary enforcement of social control by public authorities. In doing so, they fall short of the aspirations of the First Amendment — stifling dissent, muting expression, and ultimately weakening the democratic experiment. We can do better. We can start by reclaiming a more measured approach to unlawful assembly that recognizes both constitutional and common sense limitations.

Suggested Citation

Inazu, John D., Unlawful Assembly as Social Control (March 29, 2016). 64 UCLA L. Rev. 2 (2017), Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 16-03-04, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2756224

John D. Inazu (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States

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