A women’s march that is expecting more than 100,000 attendees the day after the Jan. 20 inauguration has secured a location for its demonstration. More than a dozen other groups planning protests are still waiting on permits.
The Women’s March on Washington will begin at Independence Avenue and Third Street, Southwest, and walk west along the edge of the National Mall. More than 143,000 people have indicated on Facebook that they plan to attend.
The group does not mention President-elect Donald Trump by name, but says, “The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us — women, immigrants of all statuses, those with diverse religious faiths particularly Muslim, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native and Indigenous people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, the economically impoverished and survivors of sexual assault. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.”
The organizers had hoped to hold the event at the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.
But the National Park Service, which issues the permits, holds prime locations, including the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Ellipse by the White House and portions of the National Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue, for the Presidential Inaugural Committee during the period covering the date of the inauguration, according to National Park Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson. Once the committee chooses the locations it wants to use, the National Park Service is able to release permits to other event organizers on a first-come, first-served basis.
Rather than wait indefinitely for their chosen spot, the Women’s March organizers went with another choice.
According to National Park Service records, 20 groups have requested permits, which is about four times the number of groups that have asked in past inaugurations, said park service spokesman Mike Litterst, reported the Associated Press.
“This is public land. This land belongs to all of us. The park service’s role is only to act as a neutral administrator and steward of public land,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, according to the AP. She is representing the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, or ANSWER, Coalition, which is planning a protest on Inauguration Day and a march the following day.
“They have done a massive land grab, to the detriment of all those who want to engage in free speech activities,” she said.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee did not respond to a request for comment. The committee’s spokesman Alex Stroman told the Washington Post, “We’re moving as quickly as possible. We are figuring out what events we are doing.”
While the committee decides, event organizers are turning to alternative locations. For example, ANSWER is planning its Jan. 21 march starting at the Trump International Hotel and going up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.
That way, they won’t need a permit from the National Park Service because the street is under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police Department, the group said.