The National Park Service has withdrawn a proposal to revise permit regulations for First Amendment protests near the White House and on the National Mall, including a proposed rule that would have opened the door to charging protest organizers for certain services.
The feds had raised concerns about growing taxpayer costs, noting that the Occupy DC demonstration in 2012 cost taxpayers about $480,000. Each year, the agency has issued about 750 permits for “First Amendment activities,” The Associated Press reported.
The proposed charges to organizers would have including setting up and taking down barricades, trash removal and repairing harm to the grounds. Critics said charging the organizers would have made it harder for people to exercise their constitutional rights. The proposed rule also would have restricted how much of the sidewalk outside the White House would be accessible to protesters.
The Park Service said in a statement Monday: “In response to more than 140,000 comments received from the public and stakeholders, the National Park Service (NPS) today announced it is withdrawing its August 2018 proposal to revise the First Amendment and Special Use Permit regulations for the National Mall, President’s Park and other national parks in the Washington, D.C. area.”
The Park Service noted that the revisions were devised to maintain the opportunity of protestors to hold special events and right to demonstrate while outlining clear restrictions that would protect the National Mall and President’s Park for visitors.
The statement added: “The National Mall and President’s Park are regarded as premier civic and symbolic spaces in our nation, and the volume and complexity of permit requests has increased dramatically over the years. The intent of the proposed revisions was to maintain the public’s opportunity to hold special events and right to demonstrate while outlining clear parameters that protect the iconic landmarks, views and grounds for use and enjoyment of citizens and visitors from around the globe.”
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There have been several large demonstrations on or near the National Mall since President Trump assumed office. The Women’s March in January 2017 brought protesters from throughout the country to Washington, and that has been followed by protests of the president’s actions on climate change and guns, to name a few.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.