A planned rally against mass shootings can’t be held on the Mall later this month because it conflicts with what’s described in a National Park Service permit application as a “talent show.”
A permit application filed last week by survivors of the Parkland, Fla., school massacre indicated the “March For Our Lives” rally will be on March 24, with up to 500,000 attendees expected. Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the Park Service, said organizers proposed holding the event on the Mall but were looking to move the rally to another location after the request conflicted with a film crew’s permit.
Litterst said the film permit was “from a student group at a local educational institution,” but he wouldn’t name the institution because “applications from educational institutions are withheld from release for privacy reasons,” he wrote in an email.
A redacted Park Service permit application this week given to The Washington Post showed the application is for a “student project” related to “filming for a talent show.”
“Student project (non-commercial) of [redacted] by Publicity Dept.,” the document appeared to read. “Filming for a talent show called [redacted]. Takes a day to finish. Games will be the main activity for filming.”
The application was for locations that included the lawn between Madison Drive NW to Jefferson Drive SW, and “14th St. to 4th St.”
The name and contact information for the permit applicant was redacted. The title of the contact was listed as “director.” The title of the applicant was listed as “filming director.”
The March For Our Lives rally, funded in part by Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities, will include “student speakers, musical performers, guest speakers and video tributes,” according to the permit application, with 14 Jumbotrons, 2,000 chairs and 2,000 portable restrooms. The film crew’s plans for the Mall were more modest, listing equipment such as two tables, two bikes and jump ropes.
Litterst said Wednesday that March For Our Lives organizers were planning their rally away from federal land, on Pennsylvania Avenue between Third and 12th streets NW, which is the jurisdiction of the District.
D.C. police said a permit for the march was filed with the agency but wouldn’t release the application or information about it. March For Our Lives organizers didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Permits for the Mall are processed in the order they are received, Litterst said, and the number of attendees or ideology of groups involved aren’t factors in their approval. The Park Service sometimes contacts applicants to see if they are willing to alter plans for larger events, he said, as in January 2017 when the Women’s March on Washington conflicted with an application from the Presidential Inaugural Committee. In that case, the inaugural committee withdrew its claim on the Ellipse adjacent to the White House, Litterst said.
Litterst said the Park Service has reached out to the initial applicant for the Mall for March 24, but hadn’t heard back yet.
“The original applicant always has the right to exercise their preference for an area,” he wrote.
In an interview with The Post last week, march organizer and shooting survivor Cameron Kasky said the march would include a protest outside the White House.
“I think the policymakers in Washington are starting to see a change within themselves,” he said. “I think that everybody deserves a fresh start. If they are not willing to have a fresh start, then they will have a badge of shame.”
As organizers and authorities dealt with the dueling permits, students at a Montgomery County high school are working to find homes for students expected to attend the event.
In a Facebook post, students from Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda said they had “organized a network of host families that live along the DC metro system that can host out-of-town students for the march.”
Gabrielle Zwi, a 17-year-old senior at the school, said the network, organized in part by the group Walter Johnson Students Against Gun Violence, had about 400 open slots for out-of-town students. Students under 18 have to provide contact information for a parent, she said.
“We just decided if we could organize students hosting students, that would be the most efficient way to get people here,” she said.
Mairead Canning, a 16-year-old Walter Johnson junior, said students were inspired to act during the Feb. 21 walkout against gun violence — a day when Walter Johnson also received a bomb threat.
“Everyone was really nervous, really scared,” she said. “We really felt for those students — we felt we weren’t doing enough. We’ve got to do something. We can’t just be sitting on the sidelines.”