Comment now on the Proposed NPS regulations
Note that comments are due before October 15!
- Navigate to https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=NPS-2018-0007-0001
- Press the “Comment Now!” button at top right
- Add your comments, along with your name and contact information if desired. After submitting, review your comments on the next page, check the box for “I understand this statement” and submit your comment. Get a tracking receipt if desired.
- The template below may be helpful for organizing your comments:
As a citizen who has frequently participated in and supported many first amendment demonstrations at the National Mall, the area surrounding the White House and other NPS park units in the National Capital Region, I am very concerned about how the proposed regulations will impact my First Amendment freedom of speech. I urge the National Parks Service not to make changes which will make it more difficult for demonstration organizers to access these spaces which have been crucial to free speech since they were first constructed. Grassroots local organizers and demonstrations will be most impacted by these changes at a time when hearing their voices is most vital.
[If desired, share a personal story about a grassroots protest at the Mall or White House that you have participated in, such as Catharsis on the Mall]
In particular I am concerned about these proposed changes:
Numbers 2) and 6), which would incur additional fees on organizers of permitted demonstrations and (by merging “special event” and “demonstration” in some cases) penalize organizers for incorporating elements such as art, music and ceremony into their First Amendment demonstration. These elements have been essential to demonstration from the time of the Civil Rights Movement until more recent demonstrations at Standing Rock, the People’s Climate March and many others. Charging demonstrators to use elements that might be classified as a “special event” or other general fees for clear First Amendment free speech is a very troubling practice that goes against the spirit of our nation and the charter of the National Parks Service. We already pay taxes, why should we have to additionally pay the government for the right to demonstrate and express our political views?
Numbers 7) and 8) which would eliminate organized free speech demonstrations in areas around the White House and certain monuments. These are VITAL areas for free speech to occur at certain times and historic moments, when the people need to be able to speak truth directly to power in the place where they work and congregate. The government is well resourced to manage any security concerns and permits that would improperly infringe on contemplation can be handled case by case. Again this is what we pay taxes to support.
Numbers 11), 12) and 13) which would restrict the length of demonstrations and the use of large scale visual formats of free speech such as sculpture, large banners, large stages etc. In this day and age the people need large, inspiring, attention-grabbing formats for First Amendment free speech. We have seen through FOIA that current height restrictions are already being used to restrict free speech in a way that is clearly not content neutral, in the case of the R-Evolution sculpture that promoted safety and equality for women, and was denied last year after interference by the Gingrichs in the Department of the Interior. These additional restrictions would make it even easier for the government to selectively deny access for unfavorable forms of free speech and unnecessarily restrict valid and essential forms of First Amendment demonstration. A 40 foot wide, 40 foot tall stage is a much bigger issue for the viewshed, for example, than a 45 foot tall, five foot wide translucent sculpture. However this regulation does nothing to distinguish between these and might even allow something that was a bigger problem as described above. A case by case assessment is a better method, especially since we have seen documented cases of demonstration organizers losing tens of thousands of dollars when NPS made “mistakes” in the “variance request” process.
These proposed regulations, which would completely eliminate free speech in certain spaces, run contrary to the National Park Service’s own Foundation Statement for the National Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue Historic Parks, which states that the purpose of the National Mall and Memorial Parks is to provide opportunities for visitor contemplation, celebration, commemoration, citizen participation, recreation, and demonstration, where the full expression of the constitutional rights of speech and peaceful assembly occur.
Please do not make these changes to further restrict our free speech in these vital spaces. Legislators need to provide additional budget and feel the pressure if their actions are leading to more demonstration, NOT punishing and making it more difficult for the demonstrators.