Credo Action

Tell Ryan Zinke: No tax on public protests

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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."

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    Tell Ryan Zinke: No tax on public protests

    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.

    Tell Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke: Do not tax or limit public protests.

    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.

    Tell Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke: Do not tax or limit public protests.

    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."