Media Coverage: PCJF Press Conference Exposes Unconstitutional Blocking Permit

Media Coverage: PCJF Press Conference Exposes Unconstitutional Blocking Permit

People of conscience across the country are looking ahead with uncertainty and even fear. But what gives all of us strength is looking at our history, knowing that in the most challenging of times we can band together and collectively stand up against repression and push forward for social change and civil rights. And succeed. At no point in our history have the victories for social justice been won because people took a wait and see attitude, or because they faded or folded in the face or threat of repression.

What matters now more than ever is that we take action. At the PCJF, we stand with all those who are taking those steps forward - steps together - to face down what is coming, to protect those who are most vulnerable, and to make it clear that the people themselves are the force to be reckoned with.

So when we discovered that the Trump Presidential Inaugural Committee was already being allowed to suppress organizing and dissent for protests to Stop the Trump Agenda we mobilized. We are not waiting for Trump to take office. Action starts now. Yesterday the PCJF took on the Trump PIC and the National Park Service who are barring access to key sites around Washington, D.C. for mass protests around the Inauguration. You can see some of the coverage of this work in defense of free speech rights below.

For more than 20 years we have been on the front lines defending democracy and civil rights in the courts and in the streets. With your help, we have won legal victories that have institutionalized fundamental rights to protest and restrictions on police conduct that federal judges have called "historic."

We need your help now as we take on what lies ahead.

Please make a year end tax deductible gift and stand with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund as we stand with all those fighting for our collective future.

Thank you for all that you do for social justice,


Mara Veryheyden-Hilliard
Executive Director
Partnership for Civil Justice Fund

Associated Press

The National Park Service is quashing dissent by blocking access to public space for those who want to demonstrate before, during and after President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration, Washington civil rights attorneys said Wednesday.

Attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund — who has successfully litigated on behalf of protesters in Washington for more than a decade — threatened legal action against the park service if it does not rescind a permit the agency itself took out to block groups from using land around the White House and the National Mall for demonstrations.

The park service historically reserves space for use by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, but Verheyden-Hilliard said the denial of protest permits has gone too far this time and is unconstitutional.

"This is public land. This land belongs to all of us. The park service's role is only to act as a neutral administrator and steward of public land," she said. "They have done a massive land grab, to the detriment of all those who want to engage in free speech activities."

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Hundreds of thousands of people from across the country plan to pour into the nation’s capital to protest Donald Trump’s inauguration in late January. But the National Park Service has reserved most of D.C.’s iconic public spaces for the exclusive use of Trump’s Inaugural Committee, not just on Inauguration Day itself but for the weeks leading up to and following the ceremony. Protest groups will have no access to these spaces unless the Committee voluntarily gives up their permits, which they have no incentive to do.

Local legal groups, including the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, call this move unprecedented and unconstitutional, and they say they are weighing legal action.

“This blocking permit that the National Park Service filed is an affront to the First Amendment. It is a violation of free speech rights, and it is a violation of the democratic process, in which voices must be heard,” said Carl Messineo, the organization’s legal director. “Collective assembly is in the very first amendment to the bill of rights because it is so essential to the functioning of a vital and healthy democracy.”

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For the thousands hoping to echo the civil rights and anti-Vietnam rallies at Lincoln Memorial by joining the women’s march on Washington the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration: time to readjust your expectations.
The Women’s March won’t be held at the Lincoln Memorial.

That’s because the National Park Service, on behalf of the Presidential Inauguration Committee, filed documents securing large swaths of the national mall and Pennsylvania Avenue, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial for the inauguration festivities. None of these spots will be open for protesters.

The NPS filed a “massive omnibus blocking permit” for many of Washington DC’s most famous political locations for days and weeks before and after the inauguration on 20 January, said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a constitutional rights litigator and the executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.

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A public interest group urged U.S. officials on Wednesday to free up Washington landmarks for thousands of people planning protests around the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

The Washington-based Partnership for Civil Justice Fund said the National Park Service had handed over control of sites such as the Lincoln Memorial to the private committee overseeing Republican Trump's inauguration.

The move had left at least a dozen protest groups without prime venues, a violation of Americans' constitutional rights, fund officials said.

The National Park Service "has done a massive land grab inhibiting all those who want to exercise their right to free speech," Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a co-founder of the fund, said at a news conference.

Trump's inaugural committee did not respond to a request for comment.

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