The Women’s March, a massive protest planned for the day after Donald Trump‘s inauguration, won’t be held at the Lincoln Memorial, the site of historic anti-Vietnam War protests and the Million Man March.
That’s because the National Park Service, working on behalf of Trump’s Presidential Inauguration Committee, has reserved almost all of Washington D.C.’s iconic public protest spaces–large parts of the National Mall, Lincoln Memorial, and Washington Monument–for Trump’s inauguration, effectively blocking activists from getting their own permits.
The park service has reserved those spaces for the days and weeks both before and after Trump’s January 20 inauguration with a “massive omnibus blocking permit,” Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, told the Guardian.
Activists say this is unprecedented. The NPS says it is following standard procedure. At the very least, the dispute highlights both the extreme level of interest there is in protesting Trump’s impending administration, as well as the uncomfortable fact that Trump’s team will get to control where and when people can express their dissent.
The NPS essentially blacked out much of the capital city’s most iconic spaces, so organizers will only have access if the committee voluntarily gives up its own permits, which, in Donald Trump’s America, is anyone’s guess.
The Women’s March is one of the most high-profile events affected by these moves. Some 137,000 have said they’re attending the protest on Facebook, but it won’t be held at the Lincoln Memorial as originally planned. Cassady Fendlay, a spokeswoman for the event, told the Guardian that they have secured another location nearby.
Speaking at a press conference, Verheyden-Hilliard said she’d never seen a situation like this one before.
“It hasn’t come up in any way previously, where you’ve had a groundswell of people trying to have access on the Saturday, January 21, and thousands of people want to come, and the government is saying we won’t give you a permit. What they’ve done is take all of these spaces out of action.”
But Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the park service, said the issue is in part pure logistics. From November 1 to March 1, these public spaces basically become “construction zones,” he said.
In the past, Litterst said inauguration committees have told the park service which areas they don’t plan to use for the staging of their events so the NPS can issue permits to other groups. But there hasn’t been word from the inauguration committee about giving up its permits so far, the Associated Press reported, which would allow them to run out the clock on protest groups.
“This is always the way it happens,” Litterst told the Washington Post. “What makes this so complicated is that not only is this inauguration, but because there has been so much interest on both sides of this election, we are seeing all of these extra events that want to take place at the same time.”