The Trump administration looks to chill free speech by making protesters pay for rallies
There really is only one Constitutional Amendment that Republicans will vow to defend, even to the death, even if it means certain death for many in America. The rest are negotiable, based on their fluctuating values and morals (or lack thereof). Case in point, the latest attempt to erode the First Amendment.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Seems pretty clear, right? It is a critical foundation of our democracy. But, the Trump administration doesn’t see it that way and a president that has wasted $77 million on playing golf in less than two years has quietly unveiled a plan to make protesters pay for the full costs of any rallies, from small protests in front of the Trump Hotel in D.C. to large-scale rallies like the Women’s March and March for Our Lives on the National Mall. From the Washington Post:
For the first time, the U.S. government wants demonstrators to pay to use our parks, sidewalks and streets to engage in free speech in the nation’s capital. This should be called for what it is: a protest tax.
This is a bold effort by the Trump administration to burden and restrict access to public spaces for First Amendment activities in Washington. If enacted, it would fundamentally alter participatory democracy in America.
Last month, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the administration’s radical, anti-democratic rewriting of regulations governing free speech and demonstrations on public lands under federal jurisdiction in Washington. Under the proposal, which is open to public comment, the National Park Service (NPS) will charge protesters “event management” costs. This would include the cost of barricades and fencing erected at the discretion of police, the salaries of personnel deployed to monitor the protest, trash removal and sanitation charges, permit application charges and costs assessed on “harm to turf” — the effects of engaging in free speech on grass, as if our public green spaces are for ornamental viewing.
Of course this would be widely challenged in court. And, of course, we already pay for these rallies via taxes. This would be a protest tax and it cannot stand. But, it is just one more way that Donald Trump and his Republican enablers are chipping away at the democratic foundations of this country. They have to be stopped this November.