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
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.