National Park Service withdraws plan to consider charging protesters for demonstrations

After a flood of comments, the National Park Service has scrapped a plan to consider charging fees for demonstrations around the National Mall and the White House.

The park service said Monday it was withdrawing proposed changes to its “First Amendment and Special Permit Use” regulations after receiving more than 140,000 comments on the plan.

The park service said it has decided to stick with existing regulations.

When the park service first unveiled its proposed rewrite of the rules in August 2018, the agency said charging fees to hold demonstrations on national park land in D.C. could help recover some of the costs of demonstrations in the nation’s capital, including trash pickup, barricades and repairing damaged turf.

The changes were necessary in part because the “volume and complexity of permit requests has increased dramatically over the years,” the park service said.

Each year, the park service issues about 4,000 permits a year for events on the National Mall and other spots in D.C., spokesman Mike Litterst told WTOP. About 750 of those permits are for First Amendment demonstrations.

In addition, during the Trump presidency, demonstrations and rallies on the National Mall have drawn massive crowds, such as the January 2017 Women’s March and the March 2018 “March for Our Lives.”

The park service’s plans quickly drew fire from activists and advocacy groups from across the political spectrum.

The American Civil Liberties Union argued the proposed rules amounted to an attempt by the Trump administration to limit protests in D.C.

In response to the uproar, the park service said it never had a firm plan to charge for protests but that it was only studying the idea of whether “cost recovery” should be considered.

Of the 140,000 comments received about the proposed changes, about 48,000 were substantive, original comments, Litterst said.

“So, we received a good amount of feedback from a lot of folks, not only D.C. residents, but also stakeholders — those who have been issued permits for events on the National Mall — which certainly played a major factor in the decision to withdraw the proposal,” he said.

Litterst said the issue of charging fees could always be revisited by future park managers or administrations, “but as far as the current management is concerned, we have fully withdrawn the proposal and have no intention of revisiting it.”

WTOP’s Michelle Murillo contributed to this report.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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