The National Park Service (NPS) has launched a new initiative, similar to that launched to exclude protests from New York City's Great Lawn. It will be used to further restrict or ban protest on the Mall from current levels. This is a component of a nationwide campaign of corporate-sponsored organizations working in partnership with government entities that claim that protests, rallies and demonstrations harm grass or "green space" or "natural resources" and must therefore be restricted or banned or shunted off to designated protest pits.
A lawsuit filed by the Partnership for Civil Justice on behalf of the National Council of Arab Americans and the ANSWER Coalition successfully overturned regulations in New York City that were used to prevent mass assembly protest in the Great Lawn of Central Park during the Republican National Convention. Those planning to reduce access to the National Mall have stated that they saw New York City's Great Lawn policies as a model for their activities.
The NPS has set up a "public-private" partnership that allows business interests and real estate developers -- in coordination with the government -- to determine the future of the Mall. The NPS has announced proposals that include creating a designated protest zone; barring any structures, like rally stages, that might temporarily block an unobstructed view from the Washington Monument to the Capitol; and making the Mall completely off-limits for undetermined periods so that the grass can rest.
The National Mall has been associated for decades as the site for mass assembly protest and gatherings. On January 18, 2003, the ANSWER Coalition organized a demonstration of 500,000 prior to the invasion of Iraq. The Nation of Islam led the Million Man March in 1995 on the Mall. The National Organization for Women sponsored the March for Women's Lives bringing more than a million people to the Mall in 2004. A huge gathering for immigrant rights took place on the Mall in 2006 as part of a nation-wide outpouring. From the Bonus Marchers of the early 1930s, to Dr. King's Poor People's March of 1968, and the anti-war Moratorium of 1969, the Mall is the historic anchor for the exercise of free speech rights in the United States. The people of the United States will not relinquish this cherished right.