A three-judge federal appeals court panel ruled Tuesday against an activist organization proposing the removal of a section of bleachers along the presidential motorcade route on Inauguration Day to protest Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency.
Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition (ANSWER) had filed suit demanding the right to organize protests in Freedom Plaza. In its lawsuit, ANSWER contended the placement of stands in Freedom Plaza creates a “free-speech exclusion zone,” which prevents expressions of dissent.
In its ruling, D.C. Circuit judges resolved the government has the power to limit demonstrations in the public square located on Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
“The First Amendment requires that any reasonable, content-neutral regulation limiting expression along the parade route leave ample space available for peaceful demonstrations,” the ruling states. “The First Amendment does not, however, support ANSWER’s claim of a right to displace spectator bleachers with it’s own demonstration at Freedom Plaza.”
Just blocks from the motorcade’s destination, the White House, Freedom Plaza is situated between 13th and 14th Streets on Pennsylvania Avenue NW. A prime location for viewing the presidential motorcade as it crawls its way up the well-known downtown street, generous portions of Freedom Plaza’s space are reserved for media.
Under current regulations for this special event, the court cited: 70 percent of the area along the route of the motorcade is set aside for spectators; 30 percent is not open to the public; and 13 percent is prearranged for media.
ANSWER filed suit despite its being issued a permit to protest at the U.S. Navy Memorial Plaza located at 7th Street NW, which is located near the juncture where Pennsylvania Avenue NW and Constitution Avenue NW meet.
In sum, over 1,200 bus permits have been issued for planned Inauguration Day protests, much higher than in the past. Issued by the National Park Service, the First Amendment permits for protesters have exceeded by four times the amount of requests than previous Inauguration Day celebrations.
[Roll Call] [Photo courtesy AFP via VOA]