It’s no secret that President Donald Trump is not a fan of protesters, nor does he hide his belief that protests against his administration or other Republicans are paid for by Democrats, but now the Trump White House is taking its anti-protesting stance beyond the usual rhetoric.
> Under the proposal introduced by the interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, in August, the administration is looking to close 80% of the sidewalks surrounding the White House, and has suggested that it could charge “event management” costs, for demonstrations.
> Currently the National Park Service is able to recoup costs for special events, but not spontaneous protests like the ones that typically take place in Lafayette Park across from the White House. These charges could include the cost of erecting barriers, cleaning fees, repairs to grass, permit fees and the salaries of official personnel on hand to monitor such demonstrations, all tallied at the discretion of the police.
> The National Park Service has attempted to justify the proposal by pointing out that large protests, like the Women’s March, overtax their abilities, and place a heavy cost on the government. One might argue when it comes to preserving our right to protest no cost is too high.
The American Civil Liberties Union noted that certain aspects of Zinke's proposal fly in the face of decades-old court orders, some of which were put in place after the ACLU took the government to court in the 1960s.
> In 1967, in the middle of the Vietnam War, the federal government tried to impose severe limits on protests near the White House. The ACLU of the District of Columbia sued, and after years of litigation, the courts rebuffed the government’s effort and reminded the National Park Service, which administers these areas, that Lafayette Park is not Yellowstone and that the White House area and the National Mall “constitute a unique [site] for the exercise of First Amendment rights.” Under court orders, the park service issued regulations allowing large demonstrations, guaranteeing quick action on applications for permits, and accommodating spontaneous protests as much as possible.
The proposal is open for public comment until October 15.