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unlawful assembly

n. the act of assembling for the purpose of starting a riot or breaching the peace or when such an assembly reasonably could be expected to cause a riot or endanger the public. Although freedom of assembly is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution, law enforcement has the right to require disbursement of such an assembly as part of the "police powers" of the state and the potential dangers of riot or breach of peace are subjective and decided on the spot by police officers or other public officials. Claims of "unlawful assembly" were often used to break up labor union picket lines until the late 1930s, against peaceful civil rights marches in the 1950s and 1960s, and by the police against anti-Vietnam War demonstrators in Los Angeles, Washington and Chicago in the late 1960s.


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