Letter to the Editor

The National Mall should be open to all, without gates, fences and barricades

I loved the Aug. 27 Style article “America’s public square,” but it didn’t explore the Mall as it is right now. On Aug. 24, during a commemoration of the March on Washington, there were fences all around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and along Constitution Avenue. Finding a group I was supposed to meet meant joining the huge, slow-moving crowd on the only street where people were allowed to enter the Mall, at the eastern end of the reflecting pool, and then threading through crowds constrained by fences and railings, some of which came almost all the way out to the pool itself.

If, as the article said, “this space has had a symbolic relationship with public discourse in this country,” the current relationship would seem to be one of distrust and arbitrary limitation on the government’s part.

If the National Park Service was expecting an angry crowd, its fences could have made people even angrier. Trying to move about was extremely frustrating.

Shouldn’t the Mall be open to all, with emphasis on open?

Marjory M. Donn, Greenbelt

For the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the Mall was defaced by ugly metal barricades that constrained the crowd and created dangerous conditions. 

Look at a picture of the crowd in 1963 — people went right up to the reflecting pool, some dangling their feet. Now look at a picture of the crowd in 2013 — barriers kept people several feet from the pool. Those barricades also lined the walkways of the park, channeling the crowd in very narrow spaces and creating many choke points.

The crowds on Aug. 24 and Aug. 28 were easygoing and nice about delays. But if there had been any kind of sudden disruption, people would have been trampled.

Ugly and dangerous: Why are those barriers there?

Karin Chenoweth, Silver Spring

 
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