- The Washington Times - Monday, October 15, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The National Park Service (NPS) is considering changing how it processes applications for marches in Washington.

Not marches on Washington, mind you, such as the peaceful 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom that included Martin Luther King’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech.

Instead, the NPS is rethinking marches and demonstrations in and around the nation’s capital because of assorted violence, potential mayhem and the maintenance of federal lands, which the NPS is responsible for.

That’s why the criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union is shameful.



For sure, Art Spitzer, the ACLU’s D.C. legal co-director, should be walking around with his bowed head. In an online post, Mr. Spritzer said the NPS wants to “drastically limit the right to demonstrate” and “put new limits on spontaneous demonstrations, and open the door to charging fees for protesting.”

Then he made this shameless analogy: “Fee requirements could make mass protests like Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic 1963 March on Washington and its ‘I Have a Dream’ speech too expensive to happen.”

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was, as pointed out earlier, peaceful; and without doubt neither law enforcers nor elected officials expected it to be. Indeed, on the day of the march, President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Bobby Kennedy paced as nervous Nellies in the command room, afraid a spark of unrest would set off a bomb of violence in Washington. It didn’t happen.

And what was a shining moment, as well, is the fact that attendees were not — I repeat, were not — professional protesters of today, marching to the beat of billionaire George Soros’ drum. In 1963, they danced to their own music and paid their drummers courtesy of rabbis, and men and women of the cloth who passed around collection plates; and black and white actors, athletes and musicians financed marchers who despised Jim Crow more than they liked the Kennedys.

The nation’s capital can easily be nicknamed the Protest Capital — and you know why? Because people have long come here to launch their complaints about our government and the governments of foreign lands. Protesters of South Africa’s apartheid regime, by example, knew if they stuck to the game plan, the government would have to change course and Nelson Mandela would eventually have to be released.

Thing is the NPS proposal must be counted on to defend the free speech and freedom to redress rights the Constitution beholds in the First Amendment.

So charging organizations to protest out of doors in the president’s sightline, or on the grounds of Congress, or to routinely use the National Mall as their personal lawn is a reasonable request.

Who do they think polices and ensures those facilities for “public enjoyment”? McGruff the Crime Dog?

The residents and other taxpayers in the city of Washington have to kick in, too — with extra police patrols and motorcycle cops, electronic surveillance and supra-extra eyes and ears because mobs jump off in a hot second. One “flash mob” tweet is all it takes.

The NPS does not want to duct tape the mouths of Americans. If they do, I’d be one of the first members of the free press to speak up loudly with big stick in hand.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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