Their rules changes for the National Parks Service land in the nation’s capital have draw sharp condemnation for being efforts to stifle ‘free speech’…..
The Trump administration is proposing to overhaul rules for protests in front of the White House and at other iconic locations in Washington, D.C., in an effort that opponents say is aimed at shutting down free speech.
The National Park Service’s (NPS) proposal, for which public comments are due by Monday, would close much of the sidewalk north of the White House to protests, limit the ability for groups to have spontaneous protests without permits in that area and on the National Mall and open the door to potentially charging some demonstrating groups fees and costs for their events.
The plan was released in August with little fanfare. But civil rights groups have been sounding alarm bells in recent days as the comment period comes to a close.
In making the proposal, the NPS cites its mandate to protect land, saying that it wants to “provide greater clarity to the public about how and where demonstrations and special events may be conducted in a manner that protects and preserves the cultural and historic integrity of these areas.”
But opponents see a connection to President Trump’s disdain for protesters, and congressional Republicans’ denunciations of recent demonstrations against new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as “mob rule.”
They argue that the iconic places in Washington, D.C., that hosted Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech in 1963 and the Occupy encampments in 2012 need to remain as welcoming as possible for the First-Amendment-guaranteed right to protest, not just for D.C. locals, but for people from around the country who travel to the nation’s capital.
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, said that while most recent administrations have tried to crack down on protests covered by the NPS unit known as the National Mall and Memorial Parks, the Trump effort is more significant.
“This administration’s come in with the most bold and consequential overhaul. The consequences are enormous,”…