- - Sunday, October 6, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In its most common usage, the expression “Freedom isn’t free” is intended to convey gratitude for the service of members of the military and to recognize that the freedoms we all enjoy are possible only because of the risks taken, and sacrifices made, by veterans and current members of the armed forces.

“Freedom Is Not Free” is even engraved on a wall at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington. But to hear the demonstration-happy left tell it, freedom may not be free — but it should be.

The various and sundry left-wing special-interest groups that regularly descend on Washington, D.C., to air their myriad grievances (minus the “Seinfeld”-style Festivus pole) don’t think they should have to pay the full cost their demonstrations and marches impose on the city and the federal government.

The First Amendment grants left-wing protesters — and everyone else — freedom of speech and the right peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. But William O. Douglas notwithstanding, there are neither “emanations,” nor “penumbras” from the First Amendment that obligate the rest of us to pick up part of the not-inconsiderable tab for the public safety and debris-cleanup services their often-raucous protests inflict whenever they hit the National Mall, Lafayette Square, Freedom Plaza, or elsewhere in the city.

Likely reflective of the left’s pervasive “free stuff” entitlement mentality, these demonstrators — from radical feminists and anti-Second Amendment gun grabbers to climate doomsayers and LGBTQ extremists — seem to think that taxpayers should subsidize their left-wing activism.



That could explain why these self-styled “progressive” activists — along with civil rights organizations and the ACLU — are apoplectic about a proposal floated by the National Park Service that would require protest groups to reimburse the federal government for the cost of security.

“Putting organizers on the hook for the costs of policing could mean invoices in the tens of thousands of dollars, according to U.S. Park Police budgets . That’s enough to price most activists out of protesting altogether, according to experts and activists awaiting a decision from the Park Service,” The Washington Post reported last week.

But those enormous costs would not be imposed on the public at all in the absence of the leftist Women’s March, the People’s Climate March, the anti-gun March for Our Lives, and the many other acts of far-left street theater.

As such, it should be up to the protest organizers — not U.S. taxpayers — to supply the funds necessary to fully cover those costs.

Leftist groups loudly and self-righteously proclaim that their demonstrations are all in pursuit of “fairness,” but — the nebulous nature of the concept of what’s “fair” aside — there’s nothing at all fair about expecting conservative and centrist Americans who don’t agree with the left’s public-policy agenda to foot part of the bill for their “free” speech.

According to The Post, for example, the March for Our Lives in March 2018 cost the Park Police about $77,500. For gun-grabber-in-chief Michael Bloomberg, whose net worth has been estimated at between $49 billion and $62 billion, that’s the equivalent of the change the rest of us find under our couch cushions. Mr. Bloomberg should volunteer to reimburse the Park Police.

Billionaire climate alarmist Tom Steyer should do likewise for the costs of policing the #ShutDownDC protests of Sept. 23 and 27.

Using ladders, cars and vans, and even an oversized sailboat, to which some of the protesters chained themselves, these global-warming fanatics snarled thousands of commuters in morning rush-hour traffic.

According to news accounts of the Sept. 23 event, several hundred demonstrators blocked as many as 22 intersections in the city. Apparently without grasping the irony, they caused idling vehicles to spew far more greenhouse-gas emissions into the atmosphere than would have otherwise been the case. At least 32 were arrested.

The #ShutDownDC demonstrations prompted Rep. Jim Banks to announce he would draft legislation that “would require protesters arrested at demonstrations in D.C. to pay for police overtime and other fees related” to the protests if “the person is convicted of a felony or misdemeanor offense.”

The Indiana Republican said his bill wouldn’t prohibit demonstrations or protests — on either end of the political spectrum — that have obtained official permits. “My bill would only apply to illegal protesters who are arrested,” he said.

That’s good as far as it goes, but the Park Service should still move ahead with its proposal to require groups — left or right — that stage protests in Washington to pay the costs now being shouldered by taxpayers.

The Park Service shouldn’t allow itself to be bullied out of it by the objections of civil rights groups that benefit greatly from those subsidies or by the ACLU’s threats to sue to block the proposal.

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