The National Park Service wants to start charging fees to hold protests on the National Mall as part of a new set of regulations the agency is proposing. They are also eyeing new restrictions on several public sidewalks in DC overseen by the Park Service, including in front of the White House and in front of the Trump hotel.
The draft regulations are open to public comment until October 15, and the National Park Service is already getting an earful of opposition to their “Pay to Protest” proposal:
“As a World War II Purple Heart veteran, I fought to protect our country’s rights of freedom of speech, press, and assembly. This proposal vitiates our First Amendment rights, is a blot on our democracy, and insults the sacrifices Americans made in World War II to maintain these rights.”
“As a combat Vietnam veteran, I strongly oppose the proposed restrictions on free speech in our nation’s capital…or anywhere else. I did not fight in a war for the convenience of politicians in this administration or any other.”
Take a few minutes to submit your own comment here.
Defending Rights and Dissent submitted comments today, opposing the fees:
Democracy is more than just voting. It is also entails freedom of expression and assembly. It includes the right of the people to come together in common cause. Without public forums, however, this right cannot be said to exist. As such, the National Park System is not only custodians of our parks and monuments, but they play a crucial in facilitating democracy. The National Parks Service needs to live up to that responsibility by lessening, not increasing, the burden for having a demonstration in public parks.
In an op-ed for the Washington Post, our allies at the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund note that the proposed regulations are not restricted to the National Mall:
And it goes beyond just the Mall. Want to protest in front of the Trump hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue? Under this proposal, you’ll have to take out your checkbook, because the NPS maintains control over the broad sidewalks of Pennsylvania Avenue. In addition to the upfront costs to even request a permit, you may be billed for the cost of barricades erected around the hotel — fencing you didn’t ask for but that the hotel wants.
To add to the pile on against protests in our Capitol city, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has proposed raising fares during major protests. A public hearing will be held in October, so stay tuned.