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Applying for Permission to Protest in Washington on January 20, 2009: Please, Uncle Sam, can my Friends Talk Too?

[Update: The National Park Service has now changed its stance. As of the end of November, 2008, individuals and groups of less than 25 will be permitted to attend the inauguration, with signs, without a permit.]

If you want to carry a sign to the presidential inaugural parade on January 20, 2009, you’ve got to apply for a permit first, and it will cost you $25 to get your application around the Homeland Security apparatus for mail delivery in DC in time for your application to even be considered.

The damage done to American government is too great for Americans to simply stay home and eat their Cheetos on the couch. Many thousands are dead, nearly a trillion dollars is down the sinkhole, and America’s diplomatic standing is at its low point thanks to a needless war. Nearly another trillion dollars is down the drain in giveaways to America’s wealthiest financiers that haven’t stopped our economic decline. This nation’s Constitution is in tatters as our government tortures people held in indefinite detention without trial, as both parties shove dissenters behind razor wire in “free speech zones” placed out of sight and mind, and as our government asserts and exercises the right to spy on our communications, search our homes and seize what it will without a warrant. At the beginning of a new administration we have the strategic opportunity and the civic obligation to help set a new tone and a new direction.

When Inauguration Day rolls around it will be time to agitate, to advocate, to demonstrate — but the National Park Service has set the bar unreasonably (unconstitutionally!) high for individual acts of dissent at the ostensibly public Inauguration Day parade. For me and people like me who yearn for a return to constitutional government, I’ve gone ahead and filed an application for a Washington, DC Inauguration Day demonstration on the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route.

I don’t have any significant stash of cash, and the Park Service demands large payments for any protest involving large numbers of people or the use of equipment, so my application is as simple and straightforward as can be. All I’m applying for is space: a designated space for people who value the Constitution to freely assemble and hold signs calling on the new president to live up to his oath of office and “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Below is the text of the application that I sent to DC by FedEx today. I can see no reason for the National Park Service to deny a permit (the polite word for “permission”) for this exercise of the First Amendment, so I’m pretty hopeful. After all, you and I do have the right. In the coming days I’ll be rolling out an organizational space for people who are interested in joining this demonstration to get information, get prepared and otherwise get involved.


James Cook
1287 Hunter Avenue
Columbus, OH 43201
[phone number redacted]
[personal email redacted]

National Park Service
Permit Office
National Capital Region
1100 Ohio Drive, SW, Room 128
Washington, DC 20242

October 20, 2008

Dear Sir or Madam,

Attached is an application for a permit to conduct a demonstration on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC on January 20, 2009 for the period from 2 hours prior to the Presidential Inaugural Parade to 2 hours after the conclusion of the Parade.

I would like to reserve a designated location on Pennsylvania Avenue at which a very simple “Oath of Office” free speech event will occur. Citizens, bearing simple posterboard signs calling for the new president to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” will assemble and, without loudspeakers or any other equipment other than these signs, will hold the signs as the Inaugural Parade passes. Participants will independently arrive and depart.

I estimate that at most 500 individuals, and most likely no more than 50 individuals, will participate. This estimate is based on the attendance of only 250 individuals at a January 11, 2008 National Mall rally against torture, organized by the resource-rich National Religious Campaign Against Torture and ACLU. The subject matter of our demonstration is similar, yet I hold nothing like the organizational capacity of these two groups. See photo and written documentation of rally attendance at http://irregulartimes.com/index.php?s=”250+souls”.

Because the event size is small, with no equipment and no movement, I request no waiver of numerical limitations and will require no marshals. I anticipate no extra cost to the National Park Service beyond the expenditures already made by the Park Service for the Inaugural Parade event of which we will be a part. I request a waiver of the $50 application processing cost, since this will be a First Amendment activity.

I look forward to a response at your earliest convenience; please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions.

Best Regards,

James Cook


Date of this Application: October 20, 2008

1. Individual and/or organization sponsor(s): James Cook
Address: 1287 Hunter Avenue, Columbus OH 43201
Telephone numbers: [redacted]

2. This is an application for a permit to conduct a DEMONSTRATION.

3. This is an application for a WAIVER OF THE NUMERICAL LIMITATIONS on certain demonstrations: NO

4. Date of proposed activity: 01/20/2009
Time: Begin 2 hours before inaugural parade. Terminate 2 hours after inaugural parade.

5. Location of proposed activity, 6. Purpose of proposed activity.
See cover letter. We would like to have a designated location on Pennsylvania Avenue at which citizens, bearing signs calling for the new president to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” may assemble and, without loudspeakers or any other equipment (or any marching), hold those signs as the Inaugural Parade passes. Participants will independently arrive and depart. A very simple “Oath of Office” affair.

7. Estimated maximum number of participants: Wildly successful estimate, 500. Realistic estimate: 50. Estimate based on attendance of 250 at 1/11/2008 National Mall Rally Against torture. For documentation see photo at http://irregulartimes.com/index.php?s=”250+souls”.

8. Will cleanup people be provided for the area: NO. How will they be identified? n/a. No more refuse will be created than by other parade attendees.

9. Person(s) in charge of activity: James Cook, 1287 Hunter Avenue, Columbus, OH 43201

10. Plans for proposed activity: No route, simply a spot on Pennsylvania Avenue parade route at which people may assemble with signs calling for the new president to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Participants independently arrive and disperse, creating no additional transportation or other infrastructure burden beyond that for the parade.

11. (a) List all props, stages, sound equipment, and other items to be provided by applicant/sponsor. No props or equipment other than standard posterboard signs (approx. 23″ x 35″)

(b) If boxes, crates, coffins, or similar items will be used, state whether they are to be carried opened or closed, their proposed size, the materials constructed from, and their proposed contents and use: none.

12. Do you have any reason to believe or any information indicating that any individual, group or organization might seek to disrupt the activity for which this application is submitted? No.

13. Marshals: Will applicant/sponsor furnish marshals? (Required for waivers of numerical limitations) No.


I’ll share with you how the permitting process proceeds.

4 comments to Applying for Permission to Protest in Washington on January 20, 2009: Please, Uncle Sam, can my Friends Talk Too?

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