US authorities denied permits to a women's march that was being organised for 21 January, the first day in office of the Trump administration, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, traditionally the site of political protests.
The march was one of the many organised on and around the day of Trump's inauguration on 20 January in the capital and across the country. Washington civil rights attorneys accused the National Park Service of filing a "massive omnibus blocking permit" for many of DC's traditional protest locations for days and weeks before and after the inauguration.
According to the Associated Press, the park service historically reserves space for use by the presidential inaugural committee. Attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund – a successful litigator on behalf of protesters in Washington – said no groups have been denied permits for protests at inaugurations in the past.
Speaking at a press conference on 8 December, Verheyden-Hilliard called the decision unconstitutional and threatened legal action against the agency.
According to her, the spaces were reserved nearly a year ago, effectively empowering Trump's inaugural committee to decide what happens on the land and who gets to use it – a decision they have yet to make.
"This is public land. This land belongs to all of us. The park service's role is only to act as a neutral administrator and steward of public land," Verheyden-Hilliard said. "They have done a massive land grab, to the detriment of all those who want to engage in free speech activities."
The park service spokesman Mike Litterst said that Trump's election has prompted four times as many requests for protest permits as any previous inauguration. Twenty groups have applied for permits, and those applications are all classified as pending, according to park service records reported by the Associated Press.
"The park service is actively reviewing the pending permit applications and, as always, is committed to accommodating as many permits as it can," Litterst said in a statement.
Responding to concerned messages about the future of the march, one of the organisers, Bob Bland, wrote on Facebook: "The march is 100% on and our logistics team has a meeting with the NPS, and all relevant agencies tomorrow". Bland said that the organisers have been in constant touch with the officials and would be able to give an update on the situation on 9 December.
The women's march on Washington had more than 100,000 people saying on Facebook they would attend the event. The movement organised itself in different chapters across the US, with a presence in almost all 50 states, and also in several cities in Canada and in Europe, with solidarity marches planned in London and Zurich.
The scale of the protest would be a new record in the size of mobilisations that the country has seen in response to a presidential inauguration. George W Bush's inauguration in 2001 drew thousands of people to protest his swearing-in, the largest protest crowd since the 1973 inauguration of President Richard Nixon, which attracted around 60,000 demonstrators.
According to the Washington Post, the organisers did not all know each other before. They had started organising their own anti-Trump protests, disgusted at the President-elect attitude and remarks towards women and minorities, but then decided to join forces and merge in one big event.
"The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonised, and threatened many of us--women, immigrants of all statuses, those with diverse religious faiths particularly Muslim, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native and Indigenous people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, the economically impoverished and survivors of sexual assault," the organisers stated in the event description.
"In the spirit of democracy and honouring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore."