Like climate change, authoritarianism is here, folks. It’s happening to us. Right now. As we speak. Per the ACLU:
President Trump has a record of attacking the rights of protesters, from suggesting that protest be illegal to praising dictators who crush any kind of dissent.
Now, the Trump administration proposes to dramatically limit the right to demonstrate near the White House and on the National Mall, including in ways that would violate court orders that have stood for decades. The proposal would close 80 percent of the White House sidewalk, put new limits on spontaneous demonstrations, and open the door to charging fees for protesting.
Fee requirements could make mass protests like Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic 1963 March on Washington and its “I have a dream” speech too expensive to happen.
To give you an idea of the vague banality of how authoritarianism sounds, this is how the act is summarized on regulations.gov:
The National Park Service proposes to revise special regulations related to demonstrations and special events at certain national park units in the National Capital Region. The proposed changes would modify regulations explaining how the NPS processes permit applications for demonstrations and special events. The rule would also identify locations where activities are allowed, not allowed, or allowed but subject to restrictions.
While this specific bout of authoritarianism is nowhere near as dire as the latest specific example of climate change irrevocably altering our reality, it is just another moment in a series of escalations in this direction. If Trump can stifle protest at the White House, then it’s just a stepping stone to whatever other restrictions he wants to make on your first amendment rights. “Well if we have these restrictions at the White House, why not X?” will be the logical underpinning for infringing on your right to protest in any other area the federal government has jurisdiction over. Like climate change, authoritarianism isn’t something that’s happening to us in one large event, but in an accumulation of events overwhelmingly pointed in one direction, which makes it easier for larger authoritarian grabs like kidnapping children to blend in. We are literally the metaphor of the frogs in (two pots) of water, and now they’re both near a boil.
Trump just sprang this new proposal on Thursday afternoon, and the deadline to leave comments on it is Monday. It’s clear as day what this is. Please take a moment of your time to leave a comment for the government on this proposed restriction while you still can, and maybe we can all replicate the moment when John Oliver crashed the FCC’s website, and buy ourselves a little more time for Trump’s inevitable power grab to take place after next month’s elections. If you are not registered to vote yet, please do so, and vote against a Republican Party which has uniformly supported Trump every step of his authoritarian way.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.