Proposed National Park Service Regulations Would Drastically Curtail Freedom of Assembly in DC

Proposed National Park Service Regulations Would Drastically Curtail Freedom of Assembly in DC - Proteus Fund

Newly proposed National Park Service regulations governing protest on federal lands in Washington DC would drastically curtail freedom of assembly in the nation’s capital. From closing down protest in front of the White House, to charging exorbitant amounts for permits, to making the process to obtain permits significantly longer and more difficult, this new proposed regulatory plan has the potential to silence the voices of grantees of all of our foundations, no matter what issue we address.

If implemented, these regulations will dramatically alter participatory democracy and free speech in DC, and likely also would become a national model for other jurisdictions looking to significantly curtail and even shut down our constitutionally protected right to dissent which of course is a cornerstone of our democracy.

Over 140 philanthropic institutions and individual funders submitted the letter below to the National Park Service, urging the administration to not adopt these changes.

Protecting the Right to Protest Initiative
Concerned by new legislation aimed at curtailing the right to protest, in 2017 Piper Fund established a rapid response pooled fund to support advocates’ rights of free speech and assembly. You can find more information about this initiative on the Piper Fund web page.


See final document in PDF format.

October 15, 2018

The Honorable Ryan Zinke
Secretary of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240
Submitted via

RE: Comments on Proposed National Park Service Rulemaking
Regulation Identifier Number: RIN 1024-AE45

Dear Mr. Zinke,

We are leaders of nonpartisan philanthropic institutions and individual funders from across the country, united in our support of non-profit organizations that seek to build a more just society and improve the quality of life in the United States. While we each have our own unique funding priorities, we stand united in our commitment to a healthy democracy that respects the critical importance of freedom of assembly.

We are writing to share our concerns about the revisions proposed by the National Park Service (NPS) to Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations, section 7.96 for the National Mall, President’s Park and other national parks in the Washington, D.C. area.

Peaceful protest is a hallmark of our democracy and enshrined in the U.S. Constitution—that no matter our race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status or political affiliation, all in America have the right to give public voice to our concerns, to weigh in on our government’s actions, and to support the ideals that are close to our hearts. To restrict or burden the public’s First Amendment right to protest in the nation’s capital is to directly undermine a core democratic and essential Constitutional value and a critical vehicle for public participation in our democracy. We are concerned that the proposed regulations do exactly that, and we urge the NPS not to enact these revisions.

The proposed regulations will hinder progress on all of the issues that our varied foundations support—from addressing climate change, to promoting racial justice, to women’s rights and health, and more. The non-profit organizations that our foundations support rely heavily on the act of protest in the nation’s capital to have their voices heard by government decision-makers on issues that will impact their lives and the health and well-being of America as a nation. We are concerned that several of the provisions in the proposed regulations will significantly hinder their ability to accomplish their work.

Any changes that slow down the process of obtaining a permit—for example, eliminating the 24-hour “deemed granted” rule, and the proposal to require permits for structures even for small events—will make it harder for the organizations we support to carry out their work in the public interest.

These are not mere costs issues related to saving taxpayer dollars. As our founders and successive generations of Americans have always understood, democracy entails struggle, and yes even costs. However, our basic rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution are not to be infringed or hollowed out completely, based on arguments of costs or logistical inconveniences.

Even more concerning is the proposal to charge for protest permits, which would drastically lessen the impact that our grantees could have on the issues most important to their communities. The proposal references charging protesters “event management” costs, the costs of barricades and fencing erected at the discretion of the police, trash removal and sanitation charges, permit application charges, costs assessed on use of grass, turf, benches, poles and walkways. Many of the organizations we support will be unable to afford these costs and will simply be unable to protest. The funds that we provide to support community engagement may also be diverted to pay these fees, impacting our effectiveness as well. We oppose both the proposal to directly charge demonstrators fees and costs, as well as the proposal to have officials deconstruct free speech activities to label some ancillary components, such as musical or cultural performances or art exhibits, as “special event” elements not meriting robust free speech protections and thus subject to cost assessments.

Finally, the proposed regulations will limit our grantees’ effectiveness in encouraging public discourse on a broad range of issues. The impact of rallies and demonstrations in the nation’s capital in promoting public awareness and understanding cannot be underestimated. By holding events in iconic locations such as the sidewalk in front of the White House, the organizations that we support are able to send their messages directly to their intended audience, and also are able to garner media coverage that can elevate their issue in the minds of the public, and contribute to a healthy public dialogue. The proposal to limit access to the White House sidewalk to a narrow 5-foot path would significantly impede the ability of organizations to communicate their views at the seat of Executive power, communicate their messages to the public through media coverage, and to contribute to the public discourse.

We urge you to not adopt these changes.


Paul Di Donato, President, Proteus Fund
Melissa Spatz, Program Director, Piper Fund, an initiative of the Proteus Fund
Dimple Abichandani, Executive Director, General Service Foundation
Sybil Ackerman-Munson, Senior Advisor and Consultant, Jubitz Family Foundation
David Addams, Executive Director, William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund
Edie Allen, President, Colombe Peace Foundation
J. Bob Alotta, Executive Director, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice
William Alton Edgerton, President, The Oak Hill Fund
Jaromir Babicka, Individual
Caitlin Baggott Davis, Executive Director, North Star Civic Foundation
Nancy R. Bagley, President, Arca Foundation
Nancy Bales, Executive Director, Gray Family Foundation
Elizabeth Barajas-Román, CEO, Solidago Foundation
Bob Barsotti, President, Board of Directors, Bill Graham Memorial Foundation
Anne Bartley, President, The AB Fund
Gary D. Bass, Executive Director, Bauman Foundation
Jesse Beason, VP of Strategy and Public Affairs, Northwest Health Foundation
Paul Beaudet, Executive Director, Wilburforce Foundation
Melissa Beck, Executive Director, The Educational Foundation of America
Jay Beckner, President, Mertz Gilmore Foundation
Lori Bezahler, President, Edward W. Hazen Foundation
Barbara Bouck, Individual
Philip Blumenthal, Director, Blumenthal Foundation
Joan Briggs, Executive Director, Threshold Foundation
James E. Canales, President and Trustee, Barr Foundation
Bess Celio, Trustee, The Lumpkin Family Foundation
Jennifer Ching, Executive Director, North Star Fund
Rubie Coles, Deputy Director, The Moriah Fund
Nat Chioke Williams, Executive Director, Hill-Snowdon Foundation
Susan R. Clark, Director of Programs, Gaia Fund
Cecilia Clarke, President and CEO, Brooklyn Community Foundation
Stuart Clarke, Executive Director, Town Creek Foundation
Lisa Pilar Cowan, Vice President, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation
Harriett Crosby, President, Farview Foundation
Tim Crosby, Principal, Thread Fund
Wade Crowfoot, CEO, Water Foundation
Gina Dalma, VP of Government Relations, Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Vanessa Daniel, Executive Director, Groundswell Fund
Alan Davis, Director, The WhyNot Initiative
Louise Davis, President, PRBB Foundation
Anne Delaney, Individual
Aaron Dorfman, President and CEO, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy
Ellen Dorsey, Executive Director, Wallace Global Fund
Valentine Doyle, Individual
Farhad Ebrahimi, President, Chorus Foundation
Ellen Epstein, Individual
Harold Erdman, Individual
R. Alden Feldon, Director of Programs, Jonathan Logan Family Foundation
Sarah Frank, Board Member, Conant Family Foundation
Amy L. Freitag, Executive Director, J.M. Kaplan Fund
Amber French, Executive Director, Media Democracy Fund
Benno Friedman, Individual
Ellen Friedman, Executive Director, Compton Foundation
Mary C. Gawlicki, Founder, Gawlicki Family Foundation
Robert Gillespie, President, Gillespie Foundation
Phyllis Glink, Executive Director, Irving Harris Foundation
Joe Goldman, President, Democracy Fund
David Goldschmidt, President, Arkay Foundation
Paul Greeney, Trustee, The Brookby Foundation
Jerry Greenfield, Individual
Deanna Gomby, President and CEO, Heising-Simons Foundation
Geoffrey Gund, President, The George Gund Foundation
Catherine Gund, Filmaker, Individual
Joan Hadden, Executive Director, TerraFocus
Paul Haible, Executive Director, Peace Development Fund
Barbara Hapgood, Secretary, Ryobi Foundation
Denis Hayes, President and CEO, Bullitt Foundation
Lukas Haynes, Executive Director, David Rockefeller Fund
Crystal Hayling, Executive Director, The Libra Foundation
Stephen B. Heintz, President, Rockefeller Brothers Fund
Daniel Hildreth, Advisor, Seal Bay Fund
Carolyn Hoffman, Individual
Libby Hoffman, President, Catalyst for Peace
Carol Hutner Winograd MD, Professor of Medicine, Emerita, Stanford University, Individual
Hope Hutman, Individual
Mauri Ingram, President and CEO, Whatcom Community Foundation
Christine James, Executive Director, The John Merck Fund
Jon M. Jensen, Executive Director, Park Foundation
John Jackson, President and CEO, Schott Foundation for Public Education
James M. Johnson, Individual
Sara Kay, CEO, The Bernard and Anne Spitzer Charitable Trust
Surina Khan, CEO, Women’s Foundation of California
Kerri Kennedy, Associate General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee
Benita Kline, President, The Leo Fund
Jeanne Kracher, Executive Director, Crossroads Fund
Rori Kramer, Director of Government Affairs, American Jewish World Service
Ulysses Lateiner, Individual
Hanh Le, Executive Director, Weissberg Foundation
Michele Lord, President, NEO Philanthropy
Sarah Malachowsky, President, Penney Family Fund
Nathalie Margi, Senior Advocacy Officer, Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights
Eric Marshall, Executive Director, Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation
Justin Maxson, Executive Director, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
Dawn Melchiorre, CEO, Forefront
Josephine A. Merck, President, Vervane Foundation
Nancy Meyer, Individual
Crystal Middlestadt, Executive Director, Chinook Fund
Ann Mills, Executive Director, Agua Fund
Maryanne Mott, Founder and Trustee, CS Fund
Larry Ottinger, Board Chair, Ottinger Foundation
Adelaide Park Gomer, Trustee, Park Foundation
Nancy Peterson, Individual
Mike Pratt, President, Scherman Foundation
Regan Pritzker, Board Member, The Libra Foundation
Susan Pritzker, Director, The Libra Foundation
Lendri Purcell, Vice President, Jonas Philanthropies
Dennis Quirin, President, Neighborhood Funders Group
Charles Rodgers, President, New Community Fund, Inc.
Abigail Rome, Environmental Consultant, Individual
Jenny Russell, Executive Director, Merck Family Fund
Alexis G. Sant, President, The Summit Foundation
Jocelyn V. Sargent, Executive Director, Hyams Foundation
Lisl Schoepflin, Chair, Panta Rhea Foundation
Jonathan A. Scott, President and Director, Singing Field Foundation
Ruth Shaber, President, Tara Health Foundation
Denise Shannon, Executive Director, Funders for Reproductive Equity
Sue Sharpe, Executive Director, Chuckanut Health Foundation
Fern Shepard, President, Rachel’s Network
Adam Simon, Executive Director, Aviv Foundation
Bonnie Simmons, Executive Director, Bill Graham Memorial Foundation
Janna Six, Executive Director, Prentice Foundation
Chivy Sok, Executive Director, Tikva Grassroots Empowerment Fund
Daniel Solomon, President, Woodbury Fund
Yifat Susskind, Executive Director, MADRE
John F. Swift, President, Swift Foundation
Martha Toll, Executive Director, Butler Family Fund
Lori Udall, Program Director, Sacharuna Foundation
Lee Vandermark, Individual
Jeffrey J. Vanderploeg, Board Member, The Children’s Fund of Connecticut
Stephen and Gretchen Viederman, Individuals
Lynn Voelbel, Trustee, Eagles Wings Foundation
George Wallerstein, Individual
Geoff Webb, President, FoundationWest
Judith Weiss, President, Samuel Rubin Foundation
Marc N. Weiss, Individual
Paul Weissman, Treasurer, Weissman Family Foundation
Sarah M. Williams, CEO, Propel Capital
Jane Yett, Individual
Rye Young, Executive Director, Third Wave Fund
Peter Zahn, President, Moxie Foundation
Ira Ziering, Individual