By Sindya N. Bhanoo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 9, 2008
The National Park Service yesterday proposed rules that would expand the space for the public and protesters along Pennsylvania Avenue during inaugurations.
The proposals followed a March federal court ruling that the park service had violated the First Amendment by keeping war protesters from the parade for President Bush's second inauguration.
The court said the service allowed event organizers to ensure that the crowd was mostly Bush administration allies.
Under the proposed change, organizers will control 13 percent of Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Park. About 70 percent will be for the public and demonstrators, regardless of their views on a particular administration.
"We believe that this is a substantial opening of Pennsylvania Avenue to the public," said Bill Line, a park service spokesman.
As in the past, demonstrators will have to apply for permits.
Some civil rights attorneys say that reserving any part of Pennsylvania Avenue for inaugural organizers is a violation of public rights.
"They are trying to once again manipulate the process," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the public interest attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the antiwar ANSWER Coalition.
"The inaugural committee already has 100 percent of the area around the Capitol and 100 percent of Lafayette Park," she added. "Pennsylvania Avenue is for the public." She said the ceremony "belongs to the people," and that the new proposal will be challenged in court.
The regulations can be viewed and commented on at http://www.regulations.gov. Comments also can be left at 877-378-5457.