Now, we're hearing about arrests that trouble those of us who care about free speech. The Capitol rotunda is an extremely desirable location for protesters. It's also a place that people use and enjoy for all kinds of organized and casual purposes. The center of the floor in the rotunda is a popular spot for protest singers and sign-holders and also — when they're not afraid of getting stepped on — for children who lie down to stare up into the dome. How do you manage these divergent and conflicting uses? Erwin says:
In the administrative codes we have an exemption for spontaneous events. Spontaneous events will occur and we will protect and there will be no enforcement actions.Preserving the ability to have sudden spontaneous protests is key. Those should not require a permit... and they don't. It might be hard sometimes to distinguish between spontaneous and non-spontaneous, but there are some clear cases:
But permitted events, if you have a permit, we have to share this building. We can’t let a few people — because they’re vocal — have their way here in this building and we’re not going to. And we’re going to move forward with enforcement. If you don’t have a permit, ask for one. It doesn’t cost anything to get a permit. I sign them all the time.
Where you have an event when you hand out song books and you meet every day, that’s not a spontaneous event. When the same players show up every day in participating in an event, whether that’s holding signs — that they’ve put a lot of labor of love into.Labor of love... that is, the care that went into making the sign is evidence of non-spontaneity. The protesters could take care to look careless. But if permit process is so easy, whenever you'd consider making that kind of effort, it would be easier to get the permit. I don't think the protesters want to concede they ought to have to get a permit, and even if it is easy to get a permit, would the same group be able to claim the prime rotunda space every weekday noon hour? And once there's any judgment applied to denying the permits, there will be charges of discrimination against those who are protesting the government.
The saga continues.