Public commentary ends tonight on a proposed rule that may restrict protests from occurring in front of the White House and along the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Atlantic reported that the National Park Service (NPS), which manages those lands, put out a proposal in mid-August to revise special regulations concerning how certain landmark locations could be used in the future as spaces to exercise free speech, put on peaceful protests, and host sporting or entertainment events.
According to the draft rule, the NPS aims to “provide greater clarity to the public about how and where demonstrations and special events may be conducted in a manner that protects and preserves the cultural and historic integrity of these areas.”
These distinguished areas include the National Mall and Memorial Parks as well as President’s Park, the three connected landscapes surrounding the White House. Within that grouping is Lafayette Park to the north of the president’s home, a site that’s long been the stage of last-minute political gatherings and demonstrations. It’s bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue and the perimeter fence that separates the White House back lawn from the public.
With the new rule, the NPS seeks to limit the number of people allowed in some of these areas and, in more extreme cases, prohibit public access altogether. The changes would specifically restrict access at the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The same restrictions, made to “preserve an atmosphere of contemplation,” were placed decades ago at some of D.C.’s older monuments.
Permanent security zones will also be set up in President’s Park (largely south of the White House) while Lafayette Park and the White House north sidewalk will remain places for planned demonstrations. In addition, the NPS wants to potentially increase the cost of permit applications for hosting demonstrations in the capital city and cap the amount of time needed for advance notice of such gatherings. Per the draft rule, this is all in an effort to recover the costs of event management, clean-up, and more.
Public comment ends tonight at 11:59 p.m. So far, 36,596 comments have been received.