The Mall has served as a venue for people to exercise their First Amendment rights nearly since its creation in 1791. All demonstrations with more than 25 people require a free permit to address potential safety and resource protection considerations and to avoid conflicts with other permitted activities. Demonstrations include picketing, speechmaking, marching, vigils, religious services, and other activities that involve communicating and expressing views or grievances with one or more people with an expectation to draw a crowd of onlookers.
Applying for a Permit
Submit an Application for a Permit to Conduct a Demonstration or Special Event in Park Areas (Demonstration Permit Application) to the Division of Permits Management in person or mail:
National Mall and Memorial Parks
Applications can be delivered Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4 pm, except federal holidays or other National Mall and Memorial Parks office closures. Demonstration Permit Applications are not accepted via fax or email. Applications are accepted up to one year in advance inclusive of the first day of setup.
Application processing costs for first amendment demonstrations are not required. No payment is required when submitting the demonstration application; however all applications are reviewed by the Division of Permits Management to ensure the activity meets the criteria of a demonstration. Organizers are responsible for all costs associated with producing the demonstration.
A permits specialist will contact you if additional meetings, discussions, or documents are required and continue to walk you through the permit process. A permit is issued prior to holding the First Amendment activity in the park. All demonstrations are deemed granted, subject to all limitations and restrictions applicable to said park area, unless denied within 24 hours of receipt of the application.
Things to Know Before Applying
A permits specialist will guide applicants through the permitting process and can also be contacted before applying to answer any questions. Please also review the Permits Resources related to your proposed activity.
Locations and Location-Specific Requirements
The National Mall and Memorial Parks are open to demonstrations at all park locations with the exception of restricted areas. Activities may only occur within these areas on specified dates to maintain the contemplative and respectful environment of the memorial. Restricted areas are identified in the code of federal regulations (36 CFR 7.96) or the Superintendent’s Compendium and include the following areas:
Additional Planning Resources
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
36 Code of Federal Regulations 7.96(g)(a)(i) defines demonstrations to include demonstrations, picketing, speechmaking, marching, holding vigils or religious services, and all other like forms of conduct that involve the communication or expression of views or grievances, engaged in by one or more persons, the conduct of which is reasonably likely to draw a crowd or onlookers.
Demonstrations involving more than 25 people require a permit in most locations on parkland. The locations where 25 or more people can demonstrate without a permit are specified in 36 Code of Federal Regulations 7.96.
Demonstrations involving 25 or fewer people may be held without a permit provided the group is not merely an extension of another group and the demonstration group does not erect temporary structures other than small lecterns or speakers' platforms.
Yes. In most cases, the applicant may also need a permit for a march from the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police (202-671-6522) or US Capitol Police (202-224-8891).
Yes, with the exception of cost. Demonstrations must follow the turf resource protection guidelines and event guidelines pertaining to, but not limited to, health, medical, and safety requirements, supplying resources for participants such as portable restrooms and medical aid stations, and transportation plans.
First Amendment demonstrations are allowed at all park areas unless restricted by regulation in 36 Code of Federal Regulations 7.96 or the Superintendent’s Compendium.
No, the National Park Service does not provide any equipment for First Amendment activities. However, certain locations have electrical outlets that are available for use.
No, people with other messages may not be excluded from First Amendment demonstrations. However, a counter demonstration area within sight and sound of your activity may be established with the assistance of the National Park Service and US Park Police. Counter demonstrations cannot disrupt your demonstration.
A demonstration permit to counter protest another group may be obtained if the area allows for double occupancy.
Marshals are NOT intended to act as security or perform police functions as part of demonstrations. Marshals assist in maintaining good order and any necessary movement of demonstration participants. US Park Police will work with the permit applicant to address security issues.
If I am demonstrating with a small group (less than 25 people), do I need a permit to use a bullhorn or any other type of sound device?
A permit for a sound device is not needed if the audio device is handheld and does not require a structure to support the equipment, but the Office of Permits Management should be notified of your intention to use audio as part of the demonstration.
The permittee is responsible for coordinating requests for road closures with the affected jurisdictions, which usually includes US Park Police, DC Metropolitan Police, and/or US Capitol Police. Participants of the demonstrations may not act in the place of police making road closures or directing vehicular or any other non-event traffic.
Last updated: February 27, 2023