During a U.S. House hearing concerning the closure of national parks and monuments during the partial government shutdown, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) scolded the director of the National Park Service for treating “pot-smoking” demonstrators in the Occupy movement with more respect than the nation’s war veterans.
Gowdy relentlessly challenged National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis to cite the federal regulation that prompted his department to put up barricades to keep veterans out of war memorials on the first day of the shutdown. He also pointed out that the Park Service failed to issue a single citation when Occupiers camped out at D.C.’s McPherson Square for 100 days — 100 days in “non-compliance” with federal regulations.
“That was two years ago,” Jarvis explained.
“Well, I can cite you the regulation that you did not follow two years ago. Can you cite me the regulation that required you to erect barricades from accessing a monument that they built?” Gowdy pressed.
The Republican congressman repeatedly asked for a straight answer as to why Jarvis ignored a federal regulation for 100 straight days when dealing with protesters, but erected barricades on the first day of the government shutdown.
“On the very first day of the closure, I implemented a closure order for all 401 national parks in compliance with the Anti-Deficiency Act,” Jarvis replied. “And immediately, that day, also included, as a part of that order, that First Amendment activities would be permitted on the National Mall.”
Unimpressed, Gowdy snapped back: “Do you consider it First Amendment activity to walk to a monument that you helped build, or is it only just smoking pot at McPherson Square?”
“We are content-neutral on First Amendment on the National Mall,” Jarvis replied calmly.
“That wasn’t my question,” the South Carolina Republican pressed. “Do you consider it to be an exercise of your First Amendment rights to walk to a monument that you helped build?”
Jarvis then claimed that the veterans would have been permitted to enter the war memorials if they “declared” they were exercising their First Amendment rights.
“Who were they to declare it to? A barricade?” Gowdy responded sarcastically. “Mr. Chairman, I want the record to reflect that no statute or code of the federal regulation was cited to justify the erection of barricades.”