[On] Aug. 7, the Trump administration's National Park Service promulgated rules that threaten protests like the nightly White House demonstrations — as well as any other would-be spontaneous large D.C. protests. The rules would restrict gatherings that now take place on a 25-foot-wide sidewalk in front of the White House to just a 5-foot sliver, severely limiting crowds. The NPS also threatens to hit political protesters on the National Mall with large security and cleanup fees that historically have been waived for such gatherings, and it wants to make it easier to reject a spontaneous protest of the type that might occur, say, if Trump fires special counsel Robert Mueller.Fifty years ago, the American Civil Liberties Union had not yet become a political action committee for the Angry Left, nor had the potential of Critique of Pure Tolerance as an operating manual for people bent on fostering diversity by limiting diversity been appreciated.
"President Trump might not like having protesters on his doorstep, but the First Amendment guarantees their right to be there," Arthur Spitzer, legal codirector of the D.C. chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote in a post opposing the rules. But foes of the measure rallied late and are running out of time: The government's comment period ends on Monday.
The ACLU notes that we've been here before. In 1967, as protests were mounting over the Vietnam War, the ACLU and other free-speech advocates had to go to court against the administration of Democrat Lyndon Johnson, which had tried to implement protest limits similar to what's being proposed in 2018.
Public spaces are for public assemblies. On campus. In Washington. Wherever people respect the Constitution.