Monday is the end of the comment period for a sweeping National Park Service proposal that will have a dramatic effect on the ability of Americans to protest in sight of their government.
Under the proposed new rules, protests around the White House and the National Mall would require permits, protestors would be barred from the sidewalk north of the White House. The proposal also seeks public comment on charging protesters fees for permits to gather.
You can and should comment. Here is what the ACLU submitted.
The park service plans to close 20 feet of the 25-foot-wide White House sidewalk, limiting demonstrators to a 5-foot sliver along Pennsylvania Avenue. This is perhaps the most iconic public forum in America, allowing "We the People" to express our views directly to the chief executive, going back at least to the women's suffrage movement 100 years ago.
The closure would violate the earlier court order, which permits demonstrations by at least 750 people on the White House sidewalk and declares that any lower limit is "invalid and void as an unconstitutional infringement of plaintiffs' rights to freedom of speech and to assemble peaceably and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
The park service didn't offer any justification for closing the sidewalk. Even if it were based on security grounds, that wouldn't pass muster because the White House fence is about to be replaced with a new, taller fence with special anti-climbing features, approved last year specifically to "meet contemporary security standards" while allowing the sidewalk to remain open.
Trump Administration Seeks to Stifle Protests Near White House and on National Mall
[Arthur Spitzer/ACLU DC]
(via Naked Capitalism)