(This action originally published 8/17)
SWAMP THEM WITH COMMENTS THIS WEEKEND!
Action #1 – WRITE to protect our right to freely assemble at our National Mall! Deadline Oct 15 at 11:59 PM ET
While Trump is personally attacking critics of his administration with revocations of their security clearances, his administration has quietly lobbed an assault on the free speech of the rest of us. A new proposal has just appeared in the Federal Register originating in the National Park Service, headed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. This proposal would CHARGE PROTESTERS for demonstrating in the nation’s Capital!
We’ve stopped their attacks before!
We derailed the imposition of exorbitant fees at our national parks, another Zinke-Production, by flooding them with comments. “I want to thank the American people who made their voices heard through the public comment process on the original fee proposal...”
We can do it again! This time it’s a first amendment right, not a parking fee.
Here’s an idea. Instead of paying millions for a parade at our capital to show off our military, how about protecting our first amendment rights to freely protest there to show off our democracy?
Comment sample: I strongly oppose this proposal. It is anti-democratic and just plain wrong. Tell Trump to go live with his buddies in Saudi Arabia, or Russia, or North Korea, rather than attempting to destroy our wonderful American democracy.
Comment sample: This is an affront to the first amendment rights of all citizens. The duty of the Park Service is to protect the assets of the federal government on behalf of the citizens, not to shield politicians from the rights of the citizens to present their grievances. Please do not pursue this policy. Thank you.
Comment sample: This proposal is unacceptable. At best, it deliberately restricts U.S. citizens’ right to dissent and protest. At worst, it’s a form of censorship and tyranny. Our great nation has had a long tradition of peaceful protesting. It’s in the First Amendment.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
These proposals violate the First Amendment and seek to restrict our constitutional rights. If you love freedom and democracy, then you love the ability to protest. These changes do nothing but benefit the few in power and seek to protect them from criticism from the very people they claim to serve. Only autocrats and those with fragile egos would want these changes. Do not enact them.
More examples for inspiration here.
Action #2 – CALL/EMAIL: Tell our legislators to preserve our right to free protest demonstrations and rallies at the National Mall.
The National Mall’s intended purpose is as our country’s preeminent First Amendment public space and it has an essential role as a stage for American democracy. Free speech assemblies on the National Mall should be just that — free.
Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Rep./Sen. [__] to preserve our right to assemble at our nation’s capitol to exercise our First Amendment rights, free of prohibitive fees, by fully funding the Department of the Interior for its NPS costs.
Contact your Legislator
Rep. Julia Brownley: email (CA-26): DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
or Rep. Salud Carbajal: email (CA-24): DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
Senator Feinstein: email DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
and Senator Harris: email DC (202) 224-3553, LA (213) 894-5000, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 355-9041, SD (619) 239-3884
Other Contacts: https://hq-salsa.wiredforchange.com
The Trump administration has put the Park Service in the uncomfortable position of having to deal with demonstrations at a much higher rate than usual and they are dipping into their emergency funds to do it. They argue that many jurisdictions have a processing fee for permits. The city of Ventura does, for example. However, a processing fee is just the beginning. Even in a small city like ours, a protest like our Women’s march can cost up to $5000 in fees, equipment rentals and hourly rates for police and other city personnel.
Joshua Geltzer, executive director of Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, said that although the Park Service may have a legitimate grievance about how much it has spent, several lower courts have ruled that government entities should bear the burden of supporting First Amendment events such as protests and rallies. Especially if their actions are the cause of our demonstrations.
Already, protesters at D.C. parks require organizers to provide toilets, on-site emergency medical responders, trash pickup and more. Samatha Miller, a spokesperson for a group that helps advise and run demonstrations in the District, said that small-budget organizations that find it cost-prohibitive to comply with Park Service requirements will either be stopped from taking advantage of their First Amendment rights or will continue with an unpermitted protest. If the Park Service moves toward requiring repayment from activists, Miller said the agency may be forced to facilitate protests against itself.
Here are the proposed changes…
The details of these regulatory changes–which include application fees, the cost of barricades set up at police discretion, trash removal and sanitation, and charges for purported harm to grass, turf, benches, poles and walkway–are summarized by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund:
Trump’s NPS far reaching proposal includes:
- Charging protestors for demonstration activities, such as application fees, the costs of barricades set up at police discretion, trash removal and sanitation, including charges for purported harm to grass, turf, benches, poles and walkways.
- Eliminating the automatic 24-hour “deemed granted” rule, where protest permit applications are deemed granted 24 hours after submission unless expressly denied. The deemed granted rule was put in place because of historic obstruction and lengthy delays of permits by the NPS — which is exactly what protesters will experience again if this change is implemented.
- Revising the definitions and categorizations between demonstrations and special events (often commercial or corporate sponsored events / concerts), allowing the NPS to impose even greater charges/restrictions on demonstrations if they contain elements associated with special events, i.e., a music performance within a demonstration.
- The NPS deceptively mixes and matches First Amendment free speech protests with commercial special events permits. According to the NPS’s own statistics, it received 4,658 permit applications for special event and demonstration permits in 2017 — but it fails to clarify that more than 80% of those permits were for special events sponsored by corporations and TV/movie films, such as the mega-million blockbuster film Wonder Woman. If the NPS is short of funds, it can turn to its corporate clients — but it is absurd to shift the purported costs onto the back of grassroots activists, whose permits are a small fraction of those processed by the NPS, and whose First Amendment-protected speech is at the very heart of democracy.
- Shortening the maximum duration of demonstrations or vigils with a sustained ongoing presence.
- Adding restrictions on small soap-box speakers platforms for small demonstrations as well as expanding restrictions on sign supports and sign dimensions.