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Federal Court Rules for Inauguration Day Free Speech Lawsuit

After Loss to Protestors, Government Issues Suspect Regulations

In a substantial free speech victory, the Partnership for Civil Justice has succeeded in overturning the National Park Service’s repeated self-dealing and gross mismanagement of their permitting system in their effort to stage-manage democracy during the quadrennial Presidential Inaugural parade.

“The January 2005 Inauguration was marred by the exclusion of thousands of people who were denied access because the National Park Service had attempted to turn Pennsylvania Avenue into the private domain of the Bush-Cheney Presidential Inaugural Committee. As a result of our lawsuit, people may have additional opportunities to access the Inaugural Parade, including those who hold an anti-war view. But this is an unfinished struggle and the litigation is still ongoing,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, attorney on the lawsuit and co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice.

In response to a Court victory on behalf of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, which has challenged these practices, the NPS has today announced new proposed regulations by which they seek to govern the public’s access to the sidewalks along Pennsylvania Avenue, “America’s Main Street,” during the Inauguration.

The National Park Service and Department of Interior have engaged in repeated illegal and unconstitutional manipulation of the permitting system to deprive access to America’s Main Street, restricting access only to the politically approved donors and supporters of the incoming Administration.

“The National Park Service has operated as a political entity and has eagerly violated the Constitution repeatedly in its attempts to limit visible dissent at this historic event that belongs to the public at large, including those who dissent from U.S. war policy,” stated Carl Messineo, counsel on the lawsuit and co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice.

“The NPS could not sustain their unconstitutional permitting scheme in the face of a major civil liberties lawsuit. Their policy and practice was struck down by the federal court on the basis that it was unconstitutional and that they discriminated against those who held an anti-war message at the 2005 Bush Inauguration. We are concerned that the new regulations are an effort by the NPS to create an after-the-fact attempt to get around the Court’s Order and once again give preferential treatment to government approved messages,” continued Messineo.

These efforts by the government to stifle democracy and dissent at the Inauguration, including the new regulations, are being addressed in the ongoing lawsuit, ANSWER Coalition v Kempthorne in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Partnership for Civil Justice is a public interest legal organization based in Washington, DC that handles a broad range of complex constitutional rights litigation matters including First Amendment litigation, employment and public accommodation discrimination cases, economic justice issues and defense of targeted communities and political organizations and activists.