A First Amendment Battle to Stop the Government from Suppressing Dissent on Inauguration Day
We're in court tomorrow, Thursday, October 22, to defend hard-fought free speech rights on Inauguration Day. For 15 years, we've been working to keep the government from eliminating the people's voices on Inauguration Day. If the government has its way, the right to mass assembly and dissent will be suppressed along "America's Main Street" on Inauguration Day, including at the iconic Freedom Plaza. The National Park Service has repeatedly attempted to reserve wide swaths of the route for the privately run Presidential Inaugural Committee, which consists of fat-cat donors, corporate sponsors and vetted supporters.
We’re fighting to stop this from happening, we need your help to win. (If you are a first-time donor, your donation will be doubled. If you are a previous supporter, the amount you increase your giving from past donations will be doubled!)
In the course of this litigation, we scored a landmark victory for constitutional rights in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The Court declared unconstitutional the Bush administration's efforts to bar anti-war protestors from peacefully assembling along wide swaths of the inaugural route.
Because of this victory, when President Obama was inaugurated in 2009, large numbers of people — not just the donors, but the unemployed, the foreclosed and low-wage workers — were able to gather together in mass assembly at Freedom Plaza.
The Court enjoined the National Park Service then "from exempting itself and/or the Presidential Inaugural Committee" from constitutionally valid permitting regulations. But rather than accept the right of the people to assemble, the government has doubled down to restrict the constitutional rights of people to come and peacefully express their messages to the incoming president. The NPS rewrote its regulations to push free speech out of Freedom Plaza and other areas alongside the presidential motorcade on Inauguration Day.
Freedom Plaza is the quintessential location for the expression of protest and the exercise of free speech rights in the center of the nation’s capital and on the Inaugural Parade route. Freedom Plaza, so named because Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned his famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech in the hotel across the street, is uniquely configured to facilitate free speech and expressive activities. It was constructed as the place where free speech rights were to be both memorialized, exalted and exercised.
The people of the United States have the right to assemble and petition for redress of grievances to the incoming president on Inauguration Day. Regardless of who the next president is — from Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton to another candidate — the people have the right to come out, assemble and convey their messages on Inauguration Day.
The Inauguration is supposed to be an exercise in real democracy, not a shallow, stage-managed affair.
You can help the efforts to defend the Constitution. Please make a donation to support this critical work by following this link.
If you'd like to join us tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 22) for Oral Argument, it will take place at 1:30pm in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, located at 333 Constitution Ave NW, in the courtroom of Honorable Judge Paul L. Friedman.