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ACTION ALERT: Tell Ryan Zinke: No Tax on Public Protests


October 8, 2018
Brandy Doyle / CREDO Action

Imagine if Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had to cancel the 1963 March on Washington because he couldn't find a corporate sponsor. Imagine if you needed one to protest Trump. Under a Trump administration proposal, the National Park Service could charge people high fees to hold a protest or demonstration in public spaces around Washington. Charging for protests would make free speech a privilege for groups with big financial backers -- and inaccessible to those who most need a voice.

https://act.credoaction.com/sign/protest-tax/

ACTION ALERT:
Tell Ryan Zinke: No Tax on Public Protests

Brandy Doyle / CREDO Action

The petition to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke reads:
"Drop proposed National Park Service
regulations that would impose fees on
or limit public protest and free speech in Washington."


Imagine if Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders had to cancel the 1963 March on Washington because they couldn't find a corporate sponsor. Imagine if you needed one to protest Trump.

Under a Trump administration proposal, the National Park Service could charge people high fees to hold a protest or demonstration in public spaces around Washington. Charging for protests would make free speech a privilege for groups with big financial backers -- and inaccessible to those who most need a voice.

Under the new rules, the National Park Service would charge protesters for the costs of barricades and fencing erected at the discretion of police, the salaries of personnel deployed to monitor the protest, and even the costs of damage to grass.1

But our public parks were never meant to be admired from afar. The courts have found that "use of parks for public assembly and airing of opinions is historic in our democratic society, and one of its cardinal values." [2]

Charging protesters is only one aspect of the plan, which includes 14 revisions to regulations about events held on federal land in Washington. One proposal would close off the iconic White House sidewalk to protests, leaving only a narrow pedestrian passageway. [3] Another new rule would require permits for any structure larger than a lectern, even if the protest does not require a permit. [4]

The Trump administration opposes regulations for corporations, but when it comes to regulating the rest of us, it's a different story. This is a massive attack on our hard-fought rights to protest that would dramatically alter the landscape of free speech.

Secretary Zinke's hostility to the public's use of public lands is well known. Last year, he proposed a massive increase on public fees to national parks, a plan that CREDO members and thousands of others opposed and defeated. [5]

Now Zinke wants us to pay to protest. Meanwhile, he has used $138,000 of taxpayer dollars for new doors in his office and tens of thousands on chartered flights. [6]

As the Washington Post Editorial Board warned, "there would be a serious cost to our democracy if the government takes the unprecedented step of charging citizens for their rights to free speech and political protest." [7] We must stand up for our constitutional right to dissent at every opportunity.

ACTION: Tell Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke:
"Do not tax or limit public protests."
Click this link to sign the petition.


Thanks for fighting back,
Brandy Doyle, Campaign Manager



The Trump Administration's Bad Plan
To Charge for Free Speech on the Mall

The Washington Post Editorial Board

(September 19, 2018) -- The National Park Service has floated the idea of whether it should charge fees to groups that hold protests on the Mall. The reason cited by officials for this possible change is the cost to the federal government of providing security and other support for these events.

But there would be a serious cost to our democracy if the government takes the unprecedented step of charging citizens for their rights to free speech and political protest. Officials should not give any more thought to this bad idea.

The possibility of imposing a fee, or requiring cost reimbursements from protesters, is among 14 proposed revisions to regulations governing events held on federal land in the District that have raised considerable concerns among constitutional rights advocates, who see an effort by the Trump administration to stifle protest in the nation's capital.

Under existing rules, the Park Service already has the authority to charge fees for "special use permit" events such as festivals or weddings, but not for activities related to speech or expression protected by the First Amendment. Each year, the agency issues about 750 permits for First Amendment demonstrations (compared with 1,500 for special events).

A parks spokesman said there are enormous costs in supporting some of the larger demonstrations and "the federal government and taxpayers shouldn't be required to underwrite the cost of somebody's special event, whether it's a concert, wedding or gathering of some sort."

There's a big difference between a Hollywood film crew shooting a scene for "Wonder Woman 1984" and citizens exercising their constitutional rights. One responsibility of the Park Service -- indeed, its legal obligation -- is to protect First Amendment activity.

As the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found in a ruling during protracted litigation over Vietnam War protests in the 1960s, the "use of parks for public assembly and airing of opinions is historic in our democratic society, and one of its cardinal values."

If there is an issue of resources -- and the Park Service has yet to make a convincing case of being overburdened -- the solution is not to place restrictions on the public's access to public spaces.

The comment period on imposing fees on protests closes Oct. 15, and an agency spokesman stressed that, at this point, it is not proposing a change but "just asking the question." Here's our answer: a resounding no.

References:
1. Mike Litterst, "Proposed National Park Service First Amendment and Special Event Permit regulations would provide clarity while protecting iconic views in Washington, D.C.," National Park Service, Aug. 7, 2018.

2. The Washington Post Editorial Board, "The Trump administration's bad plan to charge for free speech on the Mall," Sept. 19, 2018.

3. Litterst, "Proposed National Park Service First Amendment and Special Event Permit regulations would provide clarity while protecting iconic views in Washington, D.C.."

4. Ibid.

5. Josh Nelson, "Victory: Trump's Interior Department drops plan to hike fees at national parks," CREDO Mobile, April 17, 2018.

6. Mike Murphy, "Interior Dept. spending nearly $139,000 on doors for Ryan Zinke's office," MarketWatch, March 9, 2018.

7. The Washington Post Editorial Board, "The Trump administration's bad plan to charge for free speech on the Mall."

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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