A fee for protests explored at capital
WASHINGTON — The National Park Service is exploring whether to require protest organizers to pay the cost of providing law enforcement and other support services for demonstrations held in the nation’s capital.
The proposed rule also could shrink a significant portion of the sidewalk outside the White House that is accessible to pedestrians, leaving a 5-foot-wide sliver. The public has until the close of Monday to comment on the proposal.
More than 7,600 comments have been submitted so far, the vast majority in opposition, including many who consider it an effort by the Trump administration to deter some of the major protests that have marked his presidency.
“Requiring these burdensome fees will dissuade Americans from demonstrating,” wrote Gayle Copeland of San Antonio. “This new rule is not reflective of American values or history to peacefully protest.”
The National Park Service issues about 750 permits a year for demonstrations within the National Mall and at nearby parks. The agency said its proposed rule is designed to provide greater clarity about how and where demonstration can occur in a manner that protects historically important public land.
National Park Service spokesman Brent Everitt said the agency will always support the First Amendment right of free speech and assembly. But citing an event preceding the Trump presidency, he noted that the cost of providing law enforcement and other support services for Occupy DC in 2012 came to about $480,000.