Tips and Tricks for Observing Demonstrations at INDE
Written By: Brianna Attamante
When there is a first amendment activity scheduled at Independence National Historical Park (INDE), there are a few things to know. First, make sure what you’re wearing has multiple large pockets. You’ll want to have a notebook, some pens, sunglasses, sunscreen, a camera, and a water bottle at your disposal. A tote bag might be a good idea, but it can get in the way when you’re taking pictures. Second, don’t assume how long an activity will take or when it will start. The time ranges for permits are more of a suggestion than reality, and you could end up waiting hours for a demonstration to start. Third, get your elevator pitch ready. Have a general idea of how you are going to introduce yourself, your project, and request an interview and the ability to take pictures before you walk up to a demonstrating group. This just makes everything flow easier. Finally, make sure you have a general understanding of the location of the Park’s landmarks. Not only is it helpful for finding out where demonstrations will be occurring, but also park goers will inevitably ask you questions when they see your uniform shirt or the green lanyard around your neck.
These are tips I’ve compiled after observing four First Amendment demonstrations at INDE over the past two weeks. Part of my work at INDE is to attend and observe around 10 instances of people using the Park’s land to exercise their rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. People have used what are now park lands for free speech, religion, assembly, and petition since before the American Revolution. Today, people continue the tradition, and Independence Hall provides a nice backdrop for any demonstration, and people seem to enjoy tying their cause to that of the Founding Fathers and the place where the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were signed.
On Friday, June 9, I was able to observe two demonstrations in the same day. I knew in advance which groups were coming and was able to prepare questions for each. The demonstrations were in stark contrast in some ways and yet similar in others. The first was a group of only two members. They were demonstrating with the goal of raising awareness for the Free Tibet movement. They had many flags—both Tibetan and American—and were clearly interested in engaging the public through their signs. The second group was around 70 individuals participating in a public Jummah, the Islamic congregational prayer service, as a precursor to the Annual Islamic Festival and Parade the following day. While this demonstration was open to the public, and they were very welcoming of me and my questions, this was more of a community gathering than a call to action, like the Free Tibet group. Despite the difference in numbers and purpose, both groups were happy to talk with me and were pleased to draw the connection between their demonstration and the First Amendment.
Prior to this program, I had not realized that people utilized INDE and other national parks in this way. Nevertheless, given the history of the Independence Hall and this country, it makes perfect sense for people to both use the land in both appreciation for the rights granted and as a place of public protest. Going forward I’ll have large pockets, flexibility, an elevator pitch, and a map handy, but there is no true way to prepare for what I’ll observe or how people will connect with INDE.