Gay Rights Marchers Get Access to Capital Mall Thanks to Gift
Gay rights advocates who join in a march on Washington next month will be given full use of the Mall under an agreement reached Monday after an unnamed benefactor offered to spend up to $300,000 to restore the grounds, a National Park Service spokeswoman said.
Gay rights groups had been denied use of all but a small part of the Mall--the long, grassy stretch of parkland around which several of Washington’s most famous monuments and museums are set--because damaged areas had not yet been repaired from the activities associated with President Clinton’s inauguration. The Inaugural Committee is paying for those repairs.
The Park Service had feared that staging another large gathering there would cause additional damage, because the government had not had time to “reseed and get the grass growing again,” spokeswoman Sandra Alley said.
Alley said that she did not know the identity of the person who agreed to pay to restore the grounds and an official of the march said that organizers are mystified as well.
“We don’t know who it is,” said Billy Hileman, co-chairman of the Committee for the March on Washington Inc. “They never contacted the March on Washington.”
While the organizers intend to accept the offer, Hileman said that they nonetheless were troubled by questions raised in the dispute. “There is a precedent being set where only those people who can afford to pay can exercise their free speech on the Mall,” Hileman said.