white house historical association > president's park / citizen's soapbox : a history of protest at the white house
In the past century, Lafayette Park has been a global stage for passionate citizens. This spot has stood as one of the greatest symbols in American history of the right to assemble and protest. Its convenient and highly visual location has attracted demonstrators from around the world to address their grievances. This in turn helps define, maintain, and secure the First Amendment right to free speech: symbolic or literal. The freedom of expression this park has hosted is obvious in its diversity, in both theme and action.

Over the course of more than two hundred years, Lafayette Park has changed physically and demographically. The area, which was once largely residential and consisting of small row houses, is now surrounded by large government office buildings.  This, in turn, brings more foot traffic.  Statues and monuments have been erected over time. And in 1995, Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was closed to vehicle traffic after the Oklahoma City bombing.  In 2004, the street was redesigned to be more inviting.

However, even as the landscape of the area has changed, the spirit of the park has not. Extending from the suffragists to current protests against nuclear proliferation, the park plays its role without discrimination. When receiving a request for a permit, the National Park Service does not judge the theme of the protest and, being content-neutral, therefore promotes equality among demonstrators. The park remains a place for congregation, recreation, or activism and many hope that this stage for world events remains this way.

MORE: Click link to read First Lady Laura Bush’s remarks on the re-opening of Pennsylvania Avenue

citizen's soapbox > open page
one > introduction
two > suffragists
three > truman assassination attempt
four > civil rights
five > anti-war protests, 60s-70s
six > nuclear disarmament
seven > pro-life & pro-choice
eight > the cause continue
nine > conclusion
audio map
president's park / citizen's soapbox walking tour map [pdf]
about the project