Posted by Anastasia Horn on October 15, 2018 in Blog
On Friday, October 12, AAI submitted comments to the National Park Service (NPS) outlining our opposition the proposed changes regarding demonstrations and special events in the National Capital Region. If enacted, these changes will drastically limit Americans’ ability to exercise their First Amendment rights in notable places like Lafayette Square and the National Mall.
Specifically, AAI opposed the proposal to change the definition of an “event” to mean both a demonstration (protest) or a special event (performances or other forms of entertainment). Currently, there is no application fee for a demonstration permit, while there is a fee associated with a special event permit. Conflating these separate designations means that Americans will have to pay to exercise their right to protest in many public areas in DC. AAI firmly believes that no American should have to pay to express their views.
AAI also objected to the proposed changes to the response window for permit applications. Currently, demonstration permits are automatically granted within 24 hours unless the NPS expressly denies the application. The proposed changes eliminate that rule and create a “provisionally reserved” status, where the application is neither confirmed or denied, making it difficult for organizers to plan their demonstration. The elimination of the 24-hour rule and the creation of a “provisionally reserved” status create barriers for Americans who wish to make their voices heard in our nation’s capital.
Finally, AAI also registered its opposition to new rules imposing strict guidelines on the size and banners allowed in Lafayette Square or the White House Sidewalk. The guidelines effectively limit demonstrators’ rights to express themselves in any way they deem fit. AAI believes that Americans’ rights to free speech and access to public areas in DC should be preserved, and that any efforts to regulate demonstrations should not infringe on Americans’ First Amendment rights.
Anastasia Horn is a 2018 Fall Intern at the Arab American Institute.