On September 19, Omar Jose Gonzalez climbed over the eight-foot-tall fence surrounding the White House, sprinted across the North Lawn, and entered the unlocked front door. He was tackled immediately after he got inside, and no one was hurt. The Secret Service has come under fire for allowing a security breach of this magnitude, and its director has been “invited” to explain the lapse at a House hearing on September 30. We are worried that a few of the “enhanced security” ideas that have been floated will directly impair people’s right to protest on the sidewalk in front of the White House. According to the Washington Post:
After an unprecedented security breach Friday night at the White House, the U.S. Secret Service is weighing a series of measures that would move tourists and D.C. residents farther away from the complex to reduce the chances of intruders piercing its security perimeter and endangering the president. One proposal is to keep people off the sidewalks around the White House fence and create several yards of additional barrier around the compound’s perimeter. Another is to screen visitors as far as a block away from the entrance gates.
None of these proposals is acceptable to us. The North Lawn is an expansive and adequate security perimeter. The distance from the fence to the North Portico is nearly 100 yards, so even if an intruder is as fast as Usain Bolt, it will take them almost 10 seconds to reach the White House (after climbing the eight-foot iron fence). Sign the petition to protect our right to protest in front of the White House! The sidewalk in front of the White House, along with the National Mall, is rightly considered “America’s Town Square.” Both venues are important spaces for the people to gather to petition their government for a redress of grievances. The Mall, which is the back yard to the Capitol, is the place to be to demand action from Congress, while the sidewalk in front of the White House is obviously the place to go to speak to the President. The Secret Service is conducting an internal review and will present the findings to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. He needs to hear from us too, to be made to understand the importance of this space for bringing the people’s concerns to the President. Please sign the petition!