As you may know, I am working to organize an Inauguration Day political demonstration for January 20, 2009 at the Pennsylvania Avenue Inaugural Parade route. The plan is for citizens to bear signs along the parade route calling for President-Elect Barack Obama to uphold the Oath of Office he will take that day to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That is a classic First Amendment expression of “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Will that right be upheld in this instance?
The National Capital Region Headquarters of the National Park Service is the government organization controlling the Inaugural Parade route and requiring government permits (the polite word for unconstitutional “permission”) for anyone to deliver a message of political dissent at Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day Parade. I sent my completed permit application to the Park Service via FedEx on October 20; the Park Service confirmed reception of the application on October 21. Since then, I have not heard not a word from the Park Service.
Today, two weeks and one day after the National Park Service received my application, I gave them a call. The Park Service confirmed that my permit application has been received, but then told me that my permit is “not issued,” “not assigned to anyone for review.” It has simply been sitting in the office, I was told, because the Park Service prefers to wait a while so that permits aren’t approved too far in advance. The permit, I was told, “won’t have any action taken upon it until later on.” When could I check back on the permit, I asked, to see if the permit has been assigned to anyone for review? “Maybe another two weeks.” Is there anything else I can do, I asked, to expedite the process? “There is really nothing else that you can do.” Finally, I asked, should I begin organizing the Inaugural protest event since it will be happening in about two months’ time? No, the Park Service staff responded, since the permit hasn’t been reviewed. The review will begin later; I could check back in two weeks to see if it had been assigned to anyone. Until then, I should take no action.
Petitioning the government for approval of the exercise of First Amendment rights is like swimming through molasses.
[Crossposted at the Irregular Times Forum]