Why Haven't Any Inauguration Protest Permits Been Issued Yet?

Why Haven't Any Inauguration Protest Permits Been Issued Yet?
Image via AP.

The National Park Service, at the request of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, has filed a “massive omnibus blocking permit,” for the Lincoln Memorial, most of the National Mall, Pennsylvania Avenue, and the Washington Monument. The move means that as of yet, no protest permits have been given out for the weeks preceding and days following January’s Inauguration.

One such protest is the Women’s March on Washington, for which tens of thousands of women (137,000 have RSVPed on Facebook) are planning on meeting at the Lincoln Memorial. The protest organizers posted on its website on November 25 that they had already had met with the National Park Service, the Metropolitan Police Department, Capitol Police, and Homeland Security to coordinate permits for the January 21 march.

In an email to Jezebel, one of the march co-chairs Tamika Mallory said the organizers will be “meeting with the authorities” on Friday afternoon and would not comment until then.

To the Guardian, however, the march spokesperson Cassady Fendlay said, “The Lincoln Memorial is not possible... We are in conversation with the police. We have secured another location.” She declined to specify what location that was.

The Washington Post’s Perry Stein writes that this isn’t anything new—the National Park Service never grants permits until the Presidential Inaugural Committee decides where to hold its events. From the Post:

Federal regulations essentially give priority to the inaugural committee, setting aside prime land, including the entire Mall between First and Fourteenth streets NW and the Ellipse by the White House, for its use. Land around the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument also is included.

The National Park Service, as a matter of standard practice, applies on behalf of the committee for the sweeping permits a year in advance, according to Mike Litterst, a park service spokesman. The committee then typically relinquishes some of them, allowing for demonstrators to secure their permits.

“This is always the way it happens,” said Litterst to the Post. “What makes this so complicated is that not only is this inauguration, but because there has been so much interest on both sides of this election, we are seeing all of these extra events that want to take place at the same time.”

In a press conference, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and the lawyer representing the ANSWER Coalition, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard said she believed the inauguration committee was intentionally holding onto its permits to make it harder for organizers to plan.

“It hasn’t come up in any way previously, where you’ve had a groundswell of people trying to have access on the Saturday, January 21, and thousands of people want to come, and the government is saying we won’t give you a permit,” she said.

“We’ve issued the demand to the parks service because this is an illegal abridgment of first amendment rights...We’ll expect they’ll conform to the constitution and make permits available.”

The Trump transition team did not respond to Jezebel’s request for comment.

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