Editorial: Capitol capacity can’t contain protests
Pennsylvania invites its citizens to engage in lively and personal protest at the seat of government.
As long as it’s done in small enough groups.
As reported by PennLive.com, if you want to marshal your forces and show up at the state Capitol with a contingent of like-minded individuals to tell your state representative how you feel about a bill or your senator what you think about a proposal or the governor what you believe about the budget, you better count everyone before you show up.
The General Services Department is now allowing only 450 people or fewer to rally in the Capitol Rotunda.
There is an element of this that does make perfectly logical, perfectly logistical sense. The restriction allows for a corridor to get people back and forth. Hundreds of people work in the Capitol and surrounding state offices that require a lot of coming and going.
There is the safety aspect, too. Hey, every building has to deal with fire code, regardless of politics.
At the same time, it could be a bucket of cold water thrown on the hot passions of protest. It smacks of “free speech zones,” created to allow a protest in a designated area during a parade or other gathering. That might fulfill a nod at constitutional protections but does so in a way that pulls all of the teeth from its bite.
But protest, by its very nature, breaks down fences and oozes over lines drawn in the sand. It refuses to be contained, like water in a downpour. You might be able to funnel it away from one area, but you can’t predict where it will rise up again.
It will not take long for a rally or a protest or a march to make its way to the Capitol with more than 450 people in tow. Maybe those first 450 will be the only ones allowed in the Rotunda. The others will not simply melt away.
The protest that is capped in one place will simply spread to others, because the people have a tendency to disagree with the government they have elected and really like to get together with others and say so.
And if they can’t show up at the Rotunda, there’s a good chance they will show up at the ballot box.