WASHINGTON D.C. (News4Utah)- In these divisive times, protests can be messy.
The National Park Service is considering dramatically raising fees charged to groups that sponsor speeches, demonstrations, and other events on the National Mall and other Park Service locations in Washington, DC.
Park service spokesperson Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles says free speech events and other demonstrations are costly for the park service.
“The ‘Occupy DC’ a few years ago was well over $400,000 in support from United States park police,” she explained. “The Woman’s March recently carried a pretty heavy cost.”
Right now demonstrators only pay a small permit fee.
Officials say charging organizers more money could help the Park Service pay for security, event management and other expenses.
The National Park Service says it issues roughly 800 permits for demonstrations each year.
Officials say the proposed updates are part of a larger effort to streamline services and improve the permit process, but opponents say charging demonstrators is an attack on free speech.
Carl Messineo with Partnership for Civil Justice is against the plan.
He says imposing new fees gives an unfair advantage to groups with big bucks and corporate sponsors.
He fears it could silence small grassroots organizations
“They can’t afford to pay the potential tens of thousands of dollars of potential cost recovery,” he said.
Park officials say the proposed fees are not a done deal.
Both sides agree the public’s voice should be heard.