by A Siegel
This Saturday, perhaps 500,000 people will descend on Washington, DC, as part of the global (some 838 events so far) March for Our Lives. This event will give a tangible, physical, very visible statement from America’s youth about their (very legitimate) fears of gun violence – in schools and elsewhere – and their even more legitimate frustration with the (primarily Republican) political kowtowing to the death-promoting National Rifle Association.
Unfortunately, Washington DC’s March for Our Lives will be held to a relatively constrained permit space:
…application was approved that includes usage of sidewalks along Pennsylvania Avenue NW between Third and 12th streets; sidewalks along Constitution Avenue NW between First and Ninth streets; green space between Constitution Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue and Third Street NW; and John Marshall Park, the U.S. Navy Memorial and Freedom Plaza.
Planned to engage those hundreds of thousands of marchers are “14 Jumbotrons, 2,000 chairs and 2,000 portable restrooms.”
While far from an expert on crowd sizes, am I the only one who wonders whether those areas can adequately handle 50,000 people, let alone 500,000, and the deployment of 2,000 “portable restrooms?”
For a march of this size and gravitas, our natural image is of a speaker at the Lincoln Memorial (with the iconic images, in mind, of Lena Horne’s concert and Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech in the March on Washington).
That this isn’t occurring, that instead the March for Our Lives participants will have a far more limited permit for far-less iconic protest sites, is because of a “preexisting” permit application. Believe it or not, a youth talent show with a maximum of 25 students at a time has laid claim to the entire Mall for the entire day for “filming games” for a “not-for-profit” “talent show.” That “event will require jump ropes, two bikes and two tables.” Uh huh…
Yet the National Park Service states that the 25 students preempt the 500,000 because permits are treated on a first-come, first-serve basis.
As Citizen Vox‘s Paul Levy, in explaining their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to ‘unredact’ that redaction, put it:
There might be nothing to it, but when I got my first look at the heavily redacted permit application for a “talent show” by an unidentified educational institution that had led the National Park Service to deny the request by the organizers of March for Our Lives for use of the National Mall, several anomalies jumped out.
For example, why refuse to release the name of the educational institution and the name of the project? (Note that on the March’s own application, as released under FOIA, the same information as not redacted.) Indeed, the redaction invoked Exemption Six of the FOIA, which protects only the privacy of individuals.
Next, the rally permit was sought for March 24, while the date sought for the “talent show” was March 25. March 24, the day before, was handwritten into the margins as a “rain date.” A rain date BEFORE the preferred date? And the talent show application not only was undated but did not bear a date-received stamp, unlike the rally permit. The National Park Service’s ground for denying the location for the rally was “first-come first served.”
Thus our FOIA request. It might well turn out that there is nothing untoward happening here, but it is worth inquiring further.
Amid emergent news about Cambridge Analytica and Facebook; the unending stream of dystopian #alternativefacts from Fox (Faux) News/Breitbart/Alex Jones/etc.; Donald Trump’s tenuous connection to truth; and innumerable dirty tricks (from the GOP and extremist organizations undermining democracy), take a pause and consider:
- Students across America are impassioned, with eloquent voices from survivors of the white nationalist slaughter of students and staff at Parkland providing true leadership, about confronting gun violence. This has led to walkouts and other protest engagements from students across the nation.
- The March For Our Lives threatens major entrenched interests aligned with and supporting the Trump regime, notably the National Rifle Association (NRA), that are not necessarily noted for their dedication to cordial and collegial public debate and discourse.
- The supposed “talent show” “student group” remains unnamed and has not come forward.
Considering all that, ask yourself:
- What are the odds of there actually being a “talent show” crew filming on the Mall this Saturday?
- What are the odds that this (likely no-show) “student group” was put up to making a permit application to disrupt the March For Our Lives?
- What are the odds that there is no student group at all, and that this application is utterly fraudulent — with or without the active awareness of anyone in the U.S. government?
Ask yourself …
WHAT ARE THE ODDS?
The March For Our Lives is less than 48 hours from now. The damage is done. However, perhaps the negative impact could be reduced by an opening up of the Mall to accommodating 500,000 people (an accommodation that will, due to large numbers, occur natural as the DC police seek to enable peaceful protest).
Key #MarchForOurLives’ leading voices could make public pleas in calling on the “talent show” students to release their permit (and even promise to give visibility, in thanks, to that student group). If Parkland survivors like Emma Gonzalez (Emma4Change), David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Jaclyn Corin, the collective #NeverAgainMSD and highly relevant A March 4 Our Lives) tweeted out an appeal with their millions of followers, what student group in America would not be aware of it? What student group could imagine saying no?
Congressional leaders (okay, that means Democratic Party Representatives and Senators) should make clear and strong statements to the Park Service’s Inspector General that there seems to be reasonable reason to have concern about whether a large-scale fraud is being perpetuated on the America people here. Perhaps that could lead to an investigation that discovers there is a fraud and the permit should be pulled. (Note: On 16 March, the Park Service rejected CitizenVox’s 9 March FOIA request.)
Park Service won't ID school whose student group is blocking March for Our Lives from the mall to protect group from public effort to persuade it to yield location https://t.co/zv74KlhCuQ
— Paul Alan Levy (@paulalanlevy) March 16, 2018
Now, it’s possible that “talent show” permit is absolutely legitimate. Perhaps there really will be 25 students on the Mall with “jump ropes, two bikes, and two tables” doing games as part of a talent show.
Or perhaps this is all a fraud.
What are the odds?