The National Park Service (NPS) is considering ways how protest organizers in D.C can cover costs for the security arrangements made for the demonstrations.
Under the proposed rule, the access to a major portion of sidewalk outside the White House could be curtailed for pedestrians, leaving only a 5-foot portion for the pedestrians.
NPS manages The National Mall and areas surrounding the White House in Washington, D.C., which includes more than 1000 acres of park land.
“The National Park Service proposes to revise special regulations related to demonstrations and special events at certain national park units in the National Capital Region,” the Proposed Rule document issued by NPS states, adding that the changes proposed would alter NPS rules on processing permit applications for demonstrations and special events. “The rule would also identify locations where activities are allowed, not allowed, or allowed but subject to restrictions.”
The public can comment on the NPS proposal until October 15. Until today, more than 7,600 comments have already been submitted,
“Requiring these burdensome fees will dissuade Americans from demonstrating. This new rule is not reflective of American values or history to peacefully protest,” wrote Gayle Copeland of San Antonio, Texas.
Every year NPS issues about 750 permits for demonstrations that are organized inside the National Mall and nearby parks. The new rule seeks to regulate how and where demonstrations can take place without harming any historically important public place, according to NPS.
After President Donald J. Trump came to power, many demonstrations were held near the National Mall. In January 2017, protestors from all over the country assembled in D.C. to participate in the Women’s March. Protest demonstrations have also been held in the capital against President Trump for his actions on climate change and gun violence.
NPS said the agency supports First Amendment right of free speech and assembly. NPS Spokesman Brent Everitt said the total cost for providing security support services for Occupy DC protests in 2012 was $480,000.
“We want to know the public’s views on whether this is an appropriate expenditure of National Park Service funds, or whether we should also attempt to recover costs for supporting these kinds of events if the group seeking the permit for the event has the ability to cover those costs,” said Everitt.
Arthur Spitzer, the legal co-director of The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in D.C.