Oct 14, 2016 Trump apparently has veto power against demonstrations outside his D.C. hotel
This week, the Washington Post reported that Donald Trump’s lease acquisition of the U.S. government’s Old Post Office building in Washington, D.C., converted the pavilion outside the hotel from a political demonstration-permitted zone to Trump’s fief, where he has the final option to veto any permit to demonstrate there.
I anticipate First Amendment-based litigation against this First Amendment-ceding blunder by the U.S. General Services Administration, which handled the deal with Trump. However, regardless of the outcome of such litigation. this GSA blunder is an important lesson to federal, state, and local government of the need to be much more careful against squelching First Amendment free expression rights in the process of enabling commercialization of government-owned property.
Dan Tangherlini was the GSA administrator when his agency cut the Old Post Office deal with Trump, who says: “’I think innocently in 2014, when GSA asked for jurisdiction over that area, the idea was that the lessor would then take care of maintaining and fixing it… At issue now is whether that [control] is going to be used to limit people’s First Amendment access, and that was certainly not the intention.’”
Intention or not, the GSA apparently blundered here, and it is now a First Amendment-eroding blunder lasting the sixty years of Trump’s lease on the Old Post Office, unless litigation or financial implosion — which can be accelerated by boycotting Trump’s D.C. hotel — will solve the matter.
As much as I want Trump to get no closer to the White House than his hotel in the capital, Trump’s lawyers — and probably Trump as well — likely well recognized the demonstration veto that Trump would get out of the deal as written. That was likely shrewd lawyering by his attorneys. Did his attorneys feel any discomfort for even a moment at serving such a First Amendment-contracting scheme?
In making this deal for a Trump hotel, the federal government seems to have been overanxious at what the hotel would do to revitalize the Old Post Office building and its surroundings, where the building had descended each year into more of an aging building with a food court and a bunch of souvenir stores. However, this building is with a great working bell-chiming/observation tower never seemed to have an ugly nor decaying neighborhood, and is in too critical a location to have justified limiting demonstration rights so broadly outside the building. What revitalization was sought, then, other than increasing tax revenues and saving the federal government from the millions of dollars for renovating the building?
Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel is only four blocks from the White House, one block from the Justice Department, behind the Internal Revenue Service, four blocks from the Treasury Department, and three blocks from the Commerce Department. The large federal government-owned pavillion outside Trump’s D.C. hotel is an ideal location not only to demonstrate against Trump, but also for people to air their First Amendment-protected grievances for or against the government, urging action by the government, or urging any other messages.
Trump likely will lose the presidential election, and it is pathetic that he will still have veto power against demonstrations for and against the government during the long sixty years of his hotel lease (and is that lease automatically renewable?). If Trump won an upset presidential victory, it would be even more pathetic that he would hold such a veto power.
Boycott Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel. By doing so, you will be in good company with the slew of organization refusing to alienate potential attendees by holding conferences there. The District of Columbia has enough other world class and high quality hotels, including the nearby Willard and Mandarin Oriental Hotels, the Four Seasons, and the Ritz, as well as plenty of other high quality hotels in the downtown area. If everyone boycotts Trump’s hotel, it will go out of business, and we will recover our First Amendment demonstration rights there.