Protests happen every day in Washington. Some are big with hundreds of thousands of marchers. Others are just one person with a sign.
Regardless of size, it’s one of the things I love about this city – seeing people gather to exercise their First Amendment rights. And it reminds me that in many countries you could be arrested, or worse, for doing something we take for granted.
The White House is an effective spot for protests. It a symbol of government power and there are always reporters around. Women demanding the right to vote were the first to figure that out. And they were the first to do it when they stood at these gates and quietly pressured President Woodrow Wilson to support the 19thamendment.
And while you never know what the issue may be on any day, you can be sure you’ll always find the Peace Vigil outside the White House. The Peace Vigil started in 1981, at the end of the Cold War, when there was a growing fear of nuclear war. And it’s been here ever since. And it’s been incredibly successful. There hasn’t been a nuclear war since they started.
As time goes by the vigil has gone on to be witnesses to a host of other issues that threaten our country and our planet. But there are some rules for a protest like this. First, there must always be someone here. If the protesters leave the site, the Park Police are within their rights to remove the tarp and signs. You can’t just put-up signs and leave. Second, protesters must stay awake. If you’re sleeping in under the tarp, that’s camping. And this is one national park where camping isn’t allowed.
That’s why the Peace Vigil protesters work in shifts. Someone is always here and awake. And they’re happy to talk with you about why they’re here, so don’t be afraid to engage them in conversation.
Lastly, anyone can do this. To protest outside the White House, just show up. No permit is needed. And you’ll be taking part in an activity that’s as old as our nation.