We discovered this week that the right of the people peaceably to assemble trumps the closure of national monuments and parks due to a lack of funds.
Tuesday, a rally for immigration reform took place on the National Mall despite the area being closed during the partial government shutdown. A concert and march "to demand the House Republican leadership pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship" as described by its organizers, were permitted to proceed.
"Employees are furloughed," National Parks Service spokesman Mike Litterst stated, "but the First Amendment continues."
"Under the same First Amendment rights that are allowing Honor Flight veterans and their families to visit the veterans memorials on the National Mall, other groups will be granted access to the park for First Amendment activities in accordance with National Park Service established regulations."
Good. In fact, we hope a variety of viewpoints and policy changes were expressed. We also hope veterans are just as free to express political opinions - although a stern warning was issued Sunday against exercising First Amendment rights on private property:
"In light of the recent events, Honor Flight Northwest Ohio will remain non-partisan, and our focus will continue to be on the veterans and their safety.
"Therefore, Honor Flight Northwest Ohio and Grand Aire, Inc. will implement a zero-tolerance policy for the October 9, 2013 flight in regard to political agendas or political activities jeopardizing the safety of the veterans.
"Political literature, signage, or activities deemed political in nature will not be permitted on the private-property of Grand Aire Inc. Failure to comply with this request could result in removal from the property."
We're pleased the Honor Flight can continue and grateful for those who offer veterans the opportunity to visit the World War II memorial. We hope folks respect the property owner's expectations. Again, we also hope veterans feel free to exercise all of their First Amendment rights while on public property.
But one thing truly seems troubling: The parks spokesman said anybody citing the right to assemble peacefully can show up at the war memorial and view it from the designated First Amendment area; however, groups of 26 or more need a permit.
The partial government shutdown apparently doesn't mean bureaucracy has come to a standstill.