A fee for protests ex­plored at cap­i­tal

The Citizens' Voice - - NATION & WORLD - BY KEVIN FREKING

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.

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