Monday, November 14, 2016

District Judge Halts Phoenix Fire at Washington Monument

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly (D.D.C.) denied the group Catharsis on the Mall a preliminary injunction against the National Park Service from enforcing its regulation against certain bonfires on Park Service land in D.C.

The ruling, though preliminary, means that Catharsis on the Mall didn't get to burn its wooden Phoenix this weekend--symbolic speech in support of veterans' and PTSD survivors' access to treatment.

The case arose when Catharsis sought permission to hold its second annual 72-hour vigil near the Washington Monument, which was to culminate in the burning of a 24-foot tall Phoenix. The group sought to show its support for veterans' and PTSD survivors' access to treatment.

The NPS denied permission, however, citing a new regulatory scheme for outdoor events, including a regulation that bans burning structures by size.

But here's the problem: NPS granted a permit to the group to burn a structure during its vigil last year that was even bigger than this year's Phoenix. And the D.C. Fire Department didn't think the Phoenix burning would have been a problem.

Still, the court ruled that Catharsis didn't show a likelihood of success on the merits. In particular, the court wrote that the new bonfire regulation was a content-neutral time, place, manner regulation on speech in a public forum; that it was narrowly tailored to maintain safety; and that Catharsis had other ways to convey its message.

The ruling is only on Catharsis's motion for a preliminary injunction, but given the court's approach to the likelihood-of-success question, the final ruling will almost certainly be the same.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/conlaw/2016/11/district-judge-halts-phoenix-fire-at-washington-monument.html

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