For the thousands hoping to echo the civil rights and anti-Vietnam rallies at Lincoln Memorial by joining the women’s march on Washington the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration: time to readjust your expectations.
The Women’s March won’t be held at the Lincoln Memorial.
That’s because the National Park Service, on behalf of the Presidential Inauguration Committee, filed documents securing large swaths of the national mall and Pennsylvania Avenue, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial for the inauguration festivities. None of these spots will be open for protesters.
The NPS filed a “massive omnibus blocking permit” for many of Washington DC’s most famous political locations for days and weeks before and after the inauguration on 20 January, said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a constitutional rights litigator and the executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.
Previously, Verheyden-Hilliard has led court battles for protest access on inauguration day itself.
But banning access to public land for protesters days after the inauguration is “extremely unique”, she said in a press conference held by the Answer [Act Now to Stop War and End Racism] Coalition.
“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.
“What they’ve done is take all of these spaces out of action,” she said, many of which, the Answer Coalition noted in its press release, are “historic spaces for dissent”.
It’s partly a practical issue. Inauguration bleachers and viewing stands started being erected on 1 November and it will take until 1 March to completely clear the major public spaces from all of the inauguration works, said Mike Litterst, spokesman for the NPS.
“They’re construction zones, effectively,” said Litterst.
But the plan greatly limits the options for public protesting.
Now, if this is standard practice by the National Park Service to lock down the area around the National Mall for four months during a presidential inauguration for security that's one thing. But in 2009 I remember the Mall being open to the public so millions could get seating, and while Barack Obama gave his famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial in the days before his inauguration I certainly don't remember the landmark being off limits for months after the inauguration.
But of course Trump isn't going to allow it. That's something America will need to get used to. Bush's "free speech zones" where protesters were roped off miles away from Bush events were all too common in the man's second term disaster. Trump is doing this from day one.
Or maybe we should, you know, not get used to it and fight it.