Park Service proposes new rules for National Mall events

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The National Park Service handles hundreds of permit applications each year for protests and events on the National Mall or at President’s Park around the White House. But organizers of these events could soon face new rules and restrictions.

After nine months of review, the agency has released proposed changes to its regulations. They include limiting the length of permitted events to 30 days, compared to the current four months.

And in the wake of Catharis on the Mall festival organizers trying to build a 45-foot tall statue of a naked woman next to the Washington Monument, new rules would make clear that structures cannot obstruct views of the monuments. Also, anything larger than a podium would need a permit.

National Park Service spokesperson Mike Litterst said this was one of the lessons learned from the Occupy DC movement.

“Because there was no regulation requiring a permit for structures, there were structures being built that were - never would have passed code,” he said.

The Park Service would also restrict demonstrations or events within the World War II, Korean War and Martin Luther King Jr. memorials, matching a rule already in effect at the Vietnam, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. In 2011, the regulation attracted silent dancing protests with demonstrators challenging the rule’s constitutionality.

“To protect the solemnity and contemplative atmosphere of these memorials, there are restricted areas where you cannot have special events and demonstrations,” Litterst said.

According to the proposal, the only events that would be allowed in these restricted zones would be sanctioned and organized by the Park Service or other government agencies.

The D.C. chapter of the aclu said it is carefully reviewing the agency’s 94-page draft document for potential first amendment violations.

Meanwhile, the activist group Code Pink is already voicing opposition.

"Limiting the visibility of these legal demonstrations, let alone restricting the ability for such actions to take place, is a clear attempt by the administration to crack down on dissent,” said Code Pink DC Director Brienne Kordis.

The public comment period on the proposed changes to the agency’s permit regulations begins next week.

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