Anti-Trump activists threaten suit over inauguration protest permits

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By Ian Simpson | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON Civil rights lawyers threatened on
Thursday to sue the U.S. government agency that manages much
public land in Washington, accusing it of quashing dissent by
not issuing permits for protests of Republican Donald Trump’s
presidential inauguration.

Up to 900,000 people are expected to pack into the nation’s
capital for the New York businessman’s Jan. 20 swearing-in to
his first political office. Some plan to criticize Trump’s more
controversial promises, including plans to build a wall along
the Mexican border and deport illegal immigrants.

Only three of the 26 groups seeking to stage rallies either
protesting or celebrating Trump’s election independently of the
Trump Presidential Inaugural Committee have received permits.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund on Thursday said it
would sue the National Park Service, which manages spaces
including the inaugural parade route and the grassy Ellipse near
the White House, if the permits are not issued by Friday.

“Fifteen days before the inauguration, the National Park
Service and the Trump Presidential Inaugural Committee are
stonewalling and refusing to release permits that are vitally
needed by organizers in order to plan and execute peaceful,
lawful free-speech activities,” Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the
fund’s executive director, told a news conference.

The Park Service and the Inaugural Committee, a private
group, had no immediate comment on the lawsuit threat.

The Park Service has maintained it is following a procedure
in place since 2008 for presidential inaugurations by turning
over control of sites along the parade route from the Capitol to
the White House. The Inaugural Committee has said it needs all
the space allotted, according to Park Service spokesman Mike
Litterst.

Three liberal groups, the ANSWER Coalition, the American
Constitution Society and the Black is Back Coalition, have been
permitted to hold events near the parade route, but only ANSWER
was granted one for Inauguration Day.

Verheyden-Hilliard, a successful litigator for Washington
protesters for more than a decade, said the permits sought cover spaces along the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route on Jan.
20, and other spaces, including the Ellipse, the following day.

WOMEN’S MARCH GOES AHEAD

Protesters will be among the 800,000 to 900,000 people who
Chris Geldart, the District of Columbia’s homeland security
director, estimates will attend Trump’s swearing-in.

Some 3,000 police officers and 7,000 National Guard troops
from outside the District will be on hand to help provide
security, Geldart said in a phone interview.

The biggest inauguration protest, the Women’s March on
Washington on Jan. 21, will go on regardless of the Park Service
dispute since it will be held on city streets.

At least one protest could come with a cloud of marijuana
smoke, as the DCMJ pro-pot lobbying group, which spearheaded the
legalization of the drug in Washington in 2015, plans to
distribute 4,200 joints near the inaugural site.

Smoking marijuana along the parade route would violate the
laws of both the District of Columbia – which allows it only in
private spaces – and the federal government, which bans it
outright.



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