Eager to avoid spoiling their Orange Cash Cow’s big Inauguration plans, a group made of up Trump’s Billionaire donors has thus far blocked access to the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Mall, traditional site of citizen protests, not only on the day of the Inauguration, but for days and even weeks thereafter, effectively insulating their new Leader from the Women’s March on Washington, an event scheduled January 21—the day after the Inauguration—which hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of women around the country will attend to protest Trump’s misogynist campaign and highlight women’s issues.
There’s been a long history of rallies taking place at the Lincoln Memorial in D.C., including civil rights and anti–Vietnam War protests. However, women marching on Washington the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration won’t get the same opportunity, as the National Parks Service has blocked access to the Lincoln Memorial.
Actually that’s inaccurate—it’s not really the “National Park Service” that is blocking access. It’s a little-known organization called the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC), the legal entity that raises and distributes funds for the event:
The Guardian reports that the NPS, on behalf of the Presidential Inauguration Committee, filed a “massive omnibus blocking permit” to block off much of the National Mall, Pennsylvania Avenue, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial for the inauguration. The permit secures these public spots for “days and weeks before and after” the January 20 event, which means the locations won’t be available for protests.
The PIC this year is made up of some of Trump’s big donors, which include Casino magnate Steve Wynn, Billionaire Republican Kingmaker Sheldon Adelson, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, and Gambling magnate Phil Ruffin, among others who clearly intend to profit off the loot-fest that this Administration shows every sign of becoming. It is headed by Colony Capital Investment firm founder Thomas Barrack, Jr.
The PIC is guaranteed by the National Park Service the power to reserve space along the Inaugural parade route, which includes the clean-up and tear-down of the areas around the stands and bleachers where the Inauguration actually takes place. The Park Service reserved most of the space a year ago, but it is up to the PIC to advise them what land they intend to actually use, in order to permit the Park Service to issue permits for the remainder, usually for purposes of protests or demonstrations.
Conveniently, however, they have not done so, the practical effect of which is to block the Women’s March—or any other organized protests—anywhere near the traditional sites of public protests, the Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and Pennsylvania Avenue.
A spokesman for the Park Service excused this type of abridgment of speech on the National Mall, calling it essentially a “construction zone” pre and post-Inauguration. While it’s not difficult to imagine Trump’s supporters at the Inauguration not cleaning up after themselves, this excuse rings hollow. These are public lands and public monuments. They are a symbol, both historically and practically speaking, of our freedom, the most iconic and obvious being the location for Martin Luther King’s "I Have A Dream” speech. Yes, the prospect of a million additional people marching there on January 21 does imply additional clean-up, but freedom to speak on the public’s own land, and particularly these sites, should not be taking a back seat to these types of rationalizations. And it is not as if the same type of crowd control issues and potential “damage” concerns won't occur where the March has been relocated.
The fact is that the “omnibus" permit blocking such access by the public allows Trump’s PIC to chill free speech, while (not coincidentally) foreclosing a potential visual PR disaster for the incoming President-elect. As of this time, no permits have been issued at all. Interestingly, however, as pointed out in Salon, the Right-To-Life, anti-abortion march scheduled for January 27 on the Mall appears to be going forward as planned.
According to attorneys who have litigated the issue of public land use for protests, the action of blocking freedom of speech after the Inauguration at the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Mall and all along Pennsylvania Avenue is unprecedented:
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, said in a press conference for the Answer (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition that she has worked on lawsuits for protest access on Inauguration Day itself. But banning public land access for days afterward is “extremely unique,” according to The Guardian:
“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. What they’ve done is take all of these spaces out of action.
Organizers of the March itself, perhaps grateful that they are permitted to demonstrate at all, say they are not contesting the omnibus permit, and have agreed on another location, yet to be disclosed. Verheyden-Hilliard, however, is suing for the right of protesters to be seen and heard on the Washington Mall.
"This is public land. This land belongs to all of us. The park service's role is only to act as a neutral administrator and steward of public land," she said. "They have done a massive land grab, to the detriment of all those who want to engage in free speech activities."
More on this topic in this post by jabberwoky. and this post by truebluemajority.