At most times, a protest in Washington, DC needs people to come out in large numbers to attract the attention of the broadcast media through which, let’s face it, most Americans gain their sense of what’s going on in America. Small protests in DC at most times are ignored. Large protests aren’t easy to pull off, especially considering the requirement by the National Park Service that massive protests cover the cost of a police presence, marshals, utilities, infrastructure and cleanup. For that reason, most of the successful DC protests of the past decade have been organized by formal organizations that make it their main purpose of existence to organize such protest: United for Peace and Justice and the ANSWER Coalition are prominent among these. These protests also unfortunately tend to make laundry lists of auxiliary demands that aren’t on the minds of most of the people who come to protest.
Maybe these large groups are necessary during most times. But there’s an exceptional time coming up: the Inauguration of the President of the United States on January 20, 2009. Media corporations from across the United States and the larger world will be all over this affair with their cameras and microphones. They’ll have their lenses focused on Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, sure. But they’ll also be filming the Inaugural Parade as it comes down Pennsylvania Avenue. And you, my friend, have a ticket to the Inaugural Parade. Every American has a ticket to the Inaugural Parade. Unlike the Inauguration itself, or the Inaugural Balls, or the Inaugural Reviewing Stand, the parade route is open to the public.
Thanks to a new statement by the National Park Service yesterday, it’s clear that you are permitted to come to the Inaugural Parade with a sign and hold that sign high as President Obama passes, as the news media beam your message across the country and around the world.
Inauguration Day 2009 will be a special day. Here’s a day when we won’t have to be limited to voting a candidate up or down. Here’s a day when we don’t have to be members of a union, a church, a lobbyist organization, a political party or somebody else’s idea of a social movement in order to express ourselves in a national forum.
Every man, woman and child in the United States of America is free to come to the 1-20-09 Inaugural Parade and independently deliver whatever message they have in mind. They are as free as the Code of Federal Regulations specifies:
Demonstrations involving 25 persons or fewer may be held without a permit …
They are as free as the First Amendment to the Constitution specifies:
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.
They are as free as their own minds.