So Can Ladies Still Protest The Trump Inauguration Or What?
Is Donald Trump scared of a bunch of girls? You bet he is! The Guardian reported Thursday morning that the National Parks Service, on behalf of the Presidential Inauguration Committee, filed a “massive omnibus blocking permit,” securing most of the areas traditionally used to protest (the national mall, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, etc.) for Trump's inauguration festivities, for the weeks before and after January 20th.
This would be a highly unusual move -- and one which would not allow the Women's March On Washington to secure a permit for the Lincoln Memorial on January 21st, as previously planned. According to the Guardian story, the Women's March is being denied a permit to protest there, and they are looking to get one for another location. The ANSWER coalition also says they are being denied a permit to march down Pennsylvania Avenue the day after the inauguration.
However! According to a report from The Washington Post Friday morning, the National Parks Service is unable to issue permits to anyone until the Presidential Inaugural Committee figures their shit out.
The Post reports:
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.
The permits are doled on a first-come, first-serve basis. Trump’s Presidential Inaugural Committee hasn’t technically been issued any permits yet, but it’s at the front of the line to receive them. The committee, according to Litterst, has not yet said it doesn’t need any of the permits and does not have a deadline for when it needs to decide.
So! What does this all mean for people looking to protest? It seems as though it means that permits may still be issued. Which is good. The concern right now, however, is that the Trump team may just purposely "run out the clock" on organizing their inauguration activities so that the 20-odd groups that have applied for permits to protest cannot get their shit together in time.
Although, the thing is -- technically you don't need a permit to protest on public land, which even a spokeswoman for the Park Police was willing to admit.
The National Park Service asks groups of 25 people or more wishing to rally or demonstrate to apply for a First Amendment Permit, which is free. Protesting without a permit on federal park land does not necessarily mean that a group would be asked to leave, said Sgt. Anna Rose, a spokeswoman for the Park Police.
“It would depend on what else was going on at the time,” Rose wrote in an email. “We pride ourselves on facilitating everyone’s right to free speech and every effort is made to allow visitors to exercise that right.”
Now! I am not going to the Washington march, I'm going to the one in Chicago (but the editrix informs me she is readying the Wonkebago for the drive to DC). Partly because I live here and am poor, but also because I want our march to be big and awesome too, and I like the idea of having multiple rallies around the country. That being said -- don't go and cancel your plans to go there if you were already planning on it. The organizers of the march say that they have secured another location -- but even if they hadn't? YOU CAN STILL PROTEST. It's not even technically civil disobedience, because there is not a law saying that you have to have one. It's more like a suggestion. And hell, even if it were an act of civil disobedience, we could probably use some of that right now.
The fact is, there are risks to protesting even if you have a permit. I've been at rallies where we've had permits but have still been attacked by police and still had arrests, still been tear gassed. Unfortunately, nothing is a guarantee -- it's a protest, not a quilting circle. To boot, if groups are denied permits to protest because Trump doesn't want them there? That is even more reason to protest.
Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse