Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Allan C. Hutchinson


Constitutional law, Constitutional interpretation, Popular constitutionalism, Social protests, Social movements, Occupy


This research deals with a parcel of the protests that have been taking place over the last few years, particularly since 2010: those protests in which the protesters, instead of rebelling against the legitimacy of the system, have preferred to accept the regimes remaining in place and consequently have manifested their discontent via playing by the constitutional rules of the game. Although governmental responses have varied in degree, in the end they have all focused on limiting the right of the people to publicly assemble and express their views. As this work contends, when governments restrict protests (sometimes violently doing so) they ignore the fact that protests involve the exercise of rights and arbitrarily restrict the voices that shape constitutional understanding. By resorting to a mixture of theoretical and comparative approaches, this thesis argues that protests which manifest their acceptance of the regimes remaining in place have, when dealing with matters a lot of people care a lot, the potential of becoming popular interpretations of constitutions. The thesis is composed of three main argumentative lines. The first argumentative line rests on the sociology of social movements and from there proposes some conceptual definitions as to what playing by the rules means to social protests. The second argumentative line builds on a comparative analysis to show what constitutional rights are (usually) involved in protecting social protests and what other rights should be considered in enhancing that protection. Finally, the third argumentative line explains that accepting the regimes remaining in place poses politico-constitutional duties on both sides, that of the citizens and that of institutions. Whereas citizens find themselves committed to submitting their popular understandings to institutions, institutions are bound to open their venues and dialogue with (and not merely to be, depending on circumstances, influenced by) these popular contentions.


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