Women’s Mega-March and Others Denied Access to Mall on Inauguration Day

December 9, 2016; Washington Post

The Women’s March on Washington is still scheduled to take place in Washington, D.C., the day after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, despite being blocked from gathering at the Lincoln Memorial. Reportedly, the National Park Service has taken out its own permit that essentially blocks dissenting groups from protesting. This kind of action would generally elicit civil disobedience, but right now the march is just looking to locate itself.

Organizers announced Friday that the march would begin at Independence Avenue and 3rd Street SW—near the U.S. Capitol—and that the biggest hurdles had finally been overcome in the permit process.

Although some of the hundreds of thousands of women and their allies had hoped to come together in front of the Lincoln Memorial, the National Park Service, on behalf of the Presidential Inauguration Committee, secured much of the area for the inauguration, essentially barring protests for days and weeks before and after the festivities, according to the Guardian.

Organizers of the Women’s March, directed by three high-profile female leaders of social justice groups, seemed upbeat on social media. Their press release focused on the positive:

We will continue to work closely with all of the relevant police entities, over the coming weeks, to ensure a safe march with all logistics in place to accommodate the number of people we anticipate convening. For security reasons, we will not release any further details about the march route until a later date.

If everything goes as planned, the march could be the largest in U.S. history on Inauguration Day, according to Vox. About 60,000 people demonstrated in opposition to President Richard Nixon in 1973. A much smaller number made their voices heard at President George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2001.

ABC News reports that Attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund has threatened legal action against the park service if it does not rescind the omnibus permit.

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. […] They have done a massive land grab, to the detriment of all those who want to engage in free speech activities.

One nonprofit—ANSWER (Act Now to Stop Racism and End War Coalition)—is crying foul at the lack of permits being granted to protestors for January and beyond.

“We need to sound the alarm about an effort underway to create a free speech buffer zone that would allow Donald Trump, in the weeks following his inauguration, to ban the American people from conducting mass assembly protests against his extremist political agenda in historic spaces of Washington, D.C.,” said a press release issued by ANSWER on Thursday, following a press conference to “expose the unprecedented and unconstitutional efforts by the National Park Service to act as a surrogate for the Trump Presidential Inaugural Committee to extinguish mass assembly protest and dissent in the weeks following Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2017.”

Through the efforts of our attorneys at the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund it has been revealed that the federal government is illegally giving the Trump Presidential Inaugural Committee, which is a private profit making entity that is soliciting tens of millions of dollars in “donations” from Corporate America, the right of first refusal to the use of all the historic public spaces not just on Inauguration Day but for weeks afterward.

Even if the Trump PIC doesn’t use these spaces they can just hold on to the permit and refuse to allow demonstrators access for mass assembly protest. And that is precisely what is happening now.

ANSWER is currently planning protests on Inauguration Day as well as a march beginning at the Trump International Hotel on Saturday, January 21st, that may meet up with the Women’s March on Washington. The nonprofit launched a #GivingTuesday fundraiser to support the protests that had raised about $6,614 of its $25,000 goal as of Sunday.—Anna Berry