Tell the government: Pennsylvania Ave. Belongs to the People
A ground breaking free speech legal victory in federal court has opened up Pennsylvania Avenue for "We the People" on Inauguration Day.
Unless you and thousands of others take action today, however, that courtroom victory could be effectively overturned by a new set of regulations proposed by the Bush Administration's National Park Service.
"The Inauguration is not a private event," ruled U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman on March 20, 2008. Judge Friedman declared unconstitutional the practice of the National Park Service of exempting the Presidential Inaugural Committee from the ordinary permit process in order to give that private political advocacy organization exclusive rights to exclude the public from along the Inaugural Parade route.
The ruling capped a nearly four year challenge by the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition represented by the Partnership for Civil Justice. The Coalition stood up for thousands of anti-war protesters and political dissenters who - - like the general public - - have been excluded from communicating their views along the quadrennial Inaugural Parade route.
The victory was so resounding that the U.S. Government did not even appeal the ruling.
That courtroom victory is in jeopardy. We need your help, to take just a couple minutes of your time right now to protect free speech along the Presidential Inaugural Parade route by sending a comment to the National Park Service.
You Can Make a Difference By Acting Now
Tell the NPS that you do not want the land that belongs to the public along "America's Main Street" of Pennsylvania Avenue privatized and set aside for the exclusive use of the private Presidential Inaugural Committee to sell to the wealthy corporations on America's Inauguration Day. Click here to send your comment now. Help flood them with thousands of comments and tell your friends and family to join in this effort.
The Bush Administration's National Park Service has re-written its regulations in response to the court ruling. Again, the regulations set aside prime swaths of the Inaugural Parade route for the exclusive use of the corporate donor friends of the incoming administration. The period for public comment closes in a few days, September 22, - so act now by clicking here to send your comment on these proposed regulations.
Background Information: What's at Stake
We say the parade route is not for the exclusive use of privileged elite and fat cat Wall Street donors. No matter who wins this next election, it is the ordinary people from all across the country who should be allowed along the Presidential Parade route. The corporate donors and wealthy elite have the Inaugural Balls, the swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, the ceremonial reviewing area at the White House. The sidewalks, at the very least, are for the people and the NPS is planning to give many blocks of sidewalk and parkland along the parade route to those hand-picked by the Presidential Inaugural Committee and party elite.
The National Park Service is trying to privatize Pennsylvania Avenue so that forever more, significant sections of parkland and sidewalks, including all of Freedom Plaza, will be for the exclusive use of the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC). In fact, the NPS has for the upcoming inauguration, just as it did for the last inaugurations, given itself a permit in advance which it will sublet to the PIC. The PIC is a private corporate-funded organization that is expected to raise tens of millions of dollars solicited from the biggest banks, corporations, oil and energy companies, Wall Street and military contractors. The PIC has as funders those who make the biggest profits off of the war drive, including $250,000 and $100,000 'contributions' from oil and defense industries. Nowhere in the Constitution does it state that Pennsylvania Avenue is reserved for the rich corporations on Inauguration Day.
What This Means for the Coming Inauguration in January 2009
No doubt, the outpouring of public expression and sentiment on Inauguration Day will be different depending on the outcome of the election. For instance, 100,000 people came out on January 20, 2001 to protest George W. Bush's new administration which was taking office in spite of the fact that it had lost the election. On January 20, 2005, tens of thousands demonstrated demanding an end to the Iraq War and occupation. Many were blocked from entering through the government's checkpoints.
One thing must remain the same no matter who is the next President: The parade route is for the people. Under existing regulations the Presidential Inaugural Committee is already given exclusive and set-aside space around the White House and Lafayette Park as well as at the Capitol. We are not challenging their use of the Capitol area or the White House area for the Presidential reviewing stands and for the Presidential Inaugural Committee bleachers (In fact, when this White House set-aside was established, it was justified by the NPS on the fact that the parade route and nearby areas remained open for demonstrators and the public). The PIC already has its space at the White House. Pennsylvania Avenue, "America's Main Street," must remain open for the public.
On January 20, 2009, there will still be 140,000 U.S. forces in Iraq. There will be the problem of skyrocketing mass layoffs and foreclosures on the home front. Regardless of who they support in the Presidential election, millions of people will want to send a message to the next administration about the war in Iraq and domestic priorities. They have a right to assemble along the Inaugural parade route. As even one of the candidates acknowledged, "Change comes from below."
Federal law requires the National Park Service to open its proposed regulation to public comment. Please take a couple minutes - - right now, as you are sitting before your computer - - to submit online comments against the discriminatory PIC set-asides in the proposed regulations.
Tell the Government that you oppose the discriminatory reservations of spectator space along the Inaugural Parade route for the Presidential Inaugural Committee. The White House area of Pennsylvania Ave. and Lafayette Park is already set aside for the Presidential Inaugural Committee. The Parade Route is for the people.
Here is how you can send your comment:
1: Go to www.regulations.gov
2. In the search box in the middle of the page, enter "ANSWER Coalition" with the quotation marks (this is very important!) and click on the "go" button.
3. Click on the link "Send a Comment or Submission" which will appear just under the regulation title, "Special Regulation: Areas of the National Park System, National Capital Region."
4. Enter your name and address and comments on the form and click on the button "Next Step" at the bottom of the page. You can leave blank or ignore fields such as "Organization Name" or "Government Agency Type" if you are filing on behalf of yourself and not on behalf of an organization or government agency and you are not required to give your email address.
5. You will be given a page on which you may review your comment. Click the "Submit" button at the bottom of the page. You are done!
Additional Steps You Can Take
1. Sign up for (low volume) updates on the struggle for free speech rights.
2. Forward this email to your friends, family and interested lists.
3. Let us know that you sent a comment on these regulations by clicking here.
4. Donate to help this effort by clicking here.