Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Historic D.C. sites such as the Washington Monument have long been used for protests. (Photo: techne/flickr/cc)

Threatened by Civil Rights Lawsuit, Park Service Expedites Protest Permits

Following threats of legal action, federal agency in charge of permits confirmed it would clear groups to hold protests on and around National Mall

Nadia Prupis, staff writer

The National Parks Service (NPS) said Thursday it would grant permits to organizations planning to protest President-elect Donald Trump's swearing-in later this month in Washington, D.C., a win that comes after civil rights lawyers threatened to sue the agency.

"We believe that this is a significant victory for free speech. They are doing this under threat of litigation," Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, told Reuters on Friday. The fund had written a letter (pdf) to the NPS on Thursday warning that it was in violation of the First Amendment.

The logjam had threatened to impede actions by more than 30 organizations and an estimated 900,000 people planning to protest Trump's inauguration and his right-wing agenda.

As of Thursday, the Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition was the only group to have received a protest permit for the Inauguration Route on January 20. Two others, the American Constitution Society and the Black is Back Coalition, have been cleared to hold events near the National Mall, but not on the day of the ceremony.

The Women's March on Washington—which has added civil rights icons Gloria Steinem and Harry Belafonte as honorary chairs, and drawn the support of organizations like Planned Parenthood and collectives like the Pussy Hat Project—is expected to draw at least 200,000 protesters alone for its January 21 actions, making it potentially the biggest inauguration protest in history.

In stalling the process and refusing to grant clearances, NPS has been "obstructing free speech groups' abilities to organize activities and may entirely prevent some individuals from being able to carry out their constitutionally protected rights to free speech," the fund's letter warned. "Permits must be issued immediately unless the NPS is refusing to do so absent legal action."

Hours after the missive was sent, NPS spokesperson Mike Litterst issued a statement confirming the agency would begin issuing permits.

NPS typically reserves some areas on and around the National Mall for the proceedings, but as of Thursday, the Presidential Inauguration Committee had yet to confirm which locations they did not need to use. The dozens of organizations that had applied for permits said the committee was overstepping its bounds by stonewalling access to public space.

The ANSWER Coalition also said it was still fighting for additional space on Pennsylvania Ave.

"We think it's critically important for the people to not be intimidated, to not be silent and to use all public spaces to express themselves," the organization said Thursday. "We are protesting to show Trump and his cabinet, and let the whole world know, that the people of this country will not go backwards, that we oppose this far-right government of billionaire oligarchs and bigots, and we will fight it every step of the way, starting on Day One."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

UN General Assembly Condemns Myanmar Junta Violence, Urges Arms Embargo

Member nations voted 119-1 in favor of the resolution, which also calls for a return to the country's fragile democracy.

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·

Dems Introduce Abolition Amendment to Scrap Constitution's 'Slavery Clause'

"The loophole in our Constitution's ban on slavery not only allowed slavery to continue, but launched an era of discrimination and mass incarceration that continues to this day," said Sen. Jeff Merkley.

Julia Conley, staff writer ·

'Surreal' and 'Distressing': Climate Experts' Predictions Come True With US Heatwave

"The current heatwave and drought leave no doubt, we are living the dangerous effects of the climate crisis."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·

94% of Americans Oppose Big Pharma's Control of Global Covid-19 Vaccine Doses: Poll

Half of U.S. adults also consider it unacceptable that pharmaceutical corporations, which monopolized dose production, have profited substantially from vaccines developed using public funding.

Kenny Stancil, staff writer ·

'Counseling Not Criminalization' Bill Unveiled to Boot Police From US Schools

"For too long our education system has been intertwined with the criminal legal system and the results have been tragic."

Andrea Germanos, staff writer ·