FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 25, 2018
Adam Eidinger, 202-744-2671,
Catharsis On The Mall Releases Critical Comments on National Park Service Proposed Restrictions and Fees for First Amendment Activities on Public Lands
Call-To-Action Issued to Submit Public Comments to NPS Opposing Restrictions on Freedom of Expression Due October 15
WASHINGTON, DC – Organizers of Catharsis on the Mall, a public vigil designed to create an artistic space for healing and demonstration that takes place near the base of the Washington Monument, have issued critical comments on proposed restrictions of First Amendment activities by the National Park Service (NPS). A 60-day public comment period began on August 15 for feedback on 14 specific changes to the special regulations of demonstrations and special events in areas of the National Park System and National Capital Region, including all park areas located in Washington, DC. The proposed changes would affect areas most appropriate for promoting a political message, such as on the National Mall, Lafayette Park, and the sidewalk in front of the White House, by establishing “restricted speech zones”; imposing fees on applicants of permits for First Amendment activity within these areas; and limiting the types of materials and structures allowable for First Amendment activities in order to preserve sightlines, grass, and contemplation.
“These proposed regulations, which would completely eliminate free speech in certain spaces, run contrary to the National Park Service’s own Foundation Statement for the National Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue Historic Parks, which states that the purpose of the National Mall and Memorial Parks is to ‘provide for the full expression of the constitutional rights of speech and peaceful assembly,” says Robert “Roman” Haferd, attorney and organizer of Catharsis on the Mall. “Could you imagine a brave new world where exercising First Amendment rights requires thousands of dollars and certain public areas are restricted from freedom of expression? That is exactly what the National Park Service is asserting with its interest in these proposed changes. This is unnecessary. The visiting public expects demonstrations and events in these popular areas, and have been sharing the space with demonstrators for centuries. There is no cause for changing this foundational statement and purpose of balancing full speech rights with tourism and contemplation.”
Catharsis organizers have issued a call-to-action for public comments to opposing specific points of the proposed rule changes to be submitted to the official government docket by October 15. In particular, organizers call attention to Proposed Changes No. 6 and No. 12, which would likely have a major impact on the cost and effort to hold a vigil like Catharsis on the Mall while also restricting and suppressing the available forms of artistic free speech.
Public comments, identified by the Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) 1024-AE45, may be submitted through the following methods:
- Electronically through the Federal eRulemaking portal: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=NPS-2018-0007-0001
- Hardcopy: Mail or hand deliver to National Park Service, National Mall and Memorial Parks, 900 Ohio Drive SW, Washington, DC 20024, Attn: Brian Joyner.
Each year, the organizers of Catharsis on the Mall select a theme to guide the vigil and its First Amendment activities in its mission of healing and social change through art, celebration, and community. In its inaugural year, Catharsis focused on healing from the War on Drugs, with the following year addressing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Last year, the group gained national attention with plans to install R-Evolution, a 47.5-foot figure sculpture of a woman by artist Marco Cochrane, as the centerpiece for the vigil to remain on the National Mall through the anniversary of the Women’s March. NPS reversed its permission to bring the piece in the days leading up to the event. Even without the sculpture, Catharsis compelled its highest ever turnout of participants thus far to uplift the dialogue around gender-based violence and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
This timely protest sculpture was originally allowed under the Catharsis on the Mall permit with a variance in writing with regard to the height of a few strands of hair over 45 feet. Nearly $40,000 was spent on building a specially-designed base for the sculpture to stand on a hardscape walkway near the Washington Monument in order to satisfy NPS conditions for structural integrity, safety, and protection of the National Mall.
“It was approved, despite the immense weight, which a site survey determined would not damage the hardscape of the proposed location of this temporary structure,” says Joshua Carroll, an organizer of Catharsis on the Mall. “Logistics to demonstrate proceeded in good faith after they formally granted the variance – including hundreds of volunteer hours preparing the sculpture. At the last minute, NPS reversed their decision granting the variance, citing a “mistake”, and provided no compensation for the $40,000 or volunteer time which were wasted. The irony of NPS now requesting fees for First Amendment activities is not lost on us.”
A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request regarding an unrelated environmental matter revealed communications between Secretary Zinke’s office, the former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and Gingrich’s wife that showed the decision to reverse the written permission by NPS to install the temporary structure by Catharsis on the Mall was political in nature and came from the Secretary’s office.
This year, the now cancelled “military parade” that was proposed by the current presidential administration was coincidentally going to occur during Catharsis on the Mall, planned for November 9-11. Catharsis on the Mall still plans to hold its vigil with the art theme of “Waking From the American Dream” and is preparing to create an all-inclusive space near the Washington Monument to host art, music, dance, workshops, movement, dialogue, and many other modalities of healing for free throughout the weekend.
Catharsis is co-created by dozens of core volunteers, artists, and activists; and thousands of participants. It is the only event ever permitted to burn a structure on the National Mall and allow amplified music for 24 hours, providing the opportunity for the public to engage in cathartic dance from sunset to sunrise. Organizers are currently directing those who wish to participate and support — whether through financial resources, by volunteering, or submitting a creative idea — to their page: https://catharsisonthemall.com/participate
Read Catharsis on the Mall organizers’ public comments on the proposed regulations and fees here:
Public call to action for public comment on the proposed regulations:
For more information about Catharsis on the Mall, please visit: http://catharsisonthemall.com
For photos, videos, and interview requests of Catharsis on the Mall organizers, artists, and its partners, please contact: Adam Eidinger, 202-744-2671 or email firstname.lastname@example.org