What Are Examples of Symbolic Speech?


Some examples of symbolic speech include sit-ins, flag waving, marching in a parade, demonstrations and wearing protest buttons. All of these activities involve non-speech or non-written elements.

Symbolic speech is action-based or symbol-based and expresses an idea through nonverbal communication. Some symbolic speech is protected by the courts while other forms are not. If the government wants to shut down a form of symbolic speech and say that it is illegal, they must have an important reason. They must be able to prove in a court of law that the symbolic speech should not be protected as speech due to their reason. They cannot shut down symbolic speech simply because they do not agree with the message being shared.

Not all speech is free and the same can be said for symbolic speech. The First Amendment does not protect all types of free speech. It does not mean that a person can say whatever they want, wherever they want and whenever they want. Words that cause distress or that initiate violence are not protected by the First Amendment. Obscene expressions, such as lying about someone, are also not protected and if the person who is being lied about decides to sue, the lying person cannot claim the First Amendment in an attempt for protection.