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This Critical Debate is part of a Debate Comparison:

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Less than 30 minutes
  • Civil Rights
  • Politics
  • Protests
  • 9-12
  • College/University

Looking Back: 9/11 Connections

Use the artifact viewer to explore the image below and discuss the following questions:

  • What happened/is happening in this image? What story does it tell?
  • How is this image connected to the events of Sept. 11, 2001?
  • How could you use this image to make an argument about the state of freedom in the U.S.? About national security?

To what extent should individuals have access to government grounds and buildings when seeking attention for a cause?

You are a state representative in a Southern state. A recent racially motivated mass murder has left your city and state in shock. The racist beliefs of the accused shooter have refocused attention on the Confederate flag, which currently flies alongside the state flag on the grounds of your capitol. Some see the flag as a symbol of hate; others as a symbol of Southern heritage.

The state legislature has agreed to consider whether the Confederate flag should be removed and has called a special session to debate and vote on the issue. In the meantime, both anti- and pro-flag protesters have organized demonstrations at the statehouse. Tensions are running high. You and a group of fellow representatives want to present recommendations for how these protests should be handled.

What guidelines do you support?

  1. Allow the protesters controlled access to the statehouse.

    The groups should have direct access to their legislators, but only in certain spaces and after passing security checks.

  2. Allow the protesters to gather outside the statehouse.

    The inside of the building should be off-limits so that legislators can safely carry out government business.

  3. Allow the protesters to gather in fenced-in “free speech zones” in front of the statehouse.

    This topic is very heated, and the protests should be carefully monitored.

  4. Close the Capitol grounds to all protests until further notice.

    This topic is too volatile.

  5. Something else.

    Explain your guidelines.

  • Who should be allowed access to the state capitol grounds, and how should they be allowed to use this space?
  • Does it matter what the groups are protesting for/against?
  • Why do these groups want access to the statehouse for their protests? How much access is necessary to allow them to achieve their goals? How much access are you comfortable granting them?
  • What happens when multiple groups with opposing viewpoints protest? Should they be allowed to interact? Should police ever intervene?
  • What is civil disobedience? How is it different from a First Amendment-protected form of protest? When is it appropriate and/or necessary?

Have students use the Analyzing Evidence and Making Your Argument handouts to collect and organize additional information about the case, then form an argument supported by evidence. Give the groups 30 minutes to prepare, or assign as homework. (Note: Students may wish to organize their sources and evidence using a spreadsheet, such as Google Sheets.)

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