Q: Was a permit application for the March for Our Lives rally filed “several months” before the event on March 24?
A: No. A Washington, D.C., police officer erroneously used that language in an email exchange. Officials say the permits were requested in late February.
Is this true?
Application for ‘March For Our Lives’ permit was made months before Parkland school shooting
A number of viral stories are claiming that the March for Our Lives demonstration held March 24 on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., was “several months” in the making — a timeline that, if true, would raise questions about how the event came to be.
The march was announced by a group of student-survivors days after the deadly high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14. Similar marches were planned nationwide, in part with the coordination of groups such as Everytown for Gun Safety and Giffords Courage. Celebrities donated to the event and showed up to protest.
Several readers asked us about some of the false stories, which say the application for a permit to demonstrate had been filed months earlier. Facebook users also flagged as potentially false nearly two dozen stories with headlines stating as much.
The claims, which first appeared March 30 on the website fellowshipoftheminds.com, are evidently rooted in a miscommunication.
The stories center on a March 28 email from Officer Scott Earhardt of Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department to an individual whose name is redacted. In the email, Earhardt responds to an inquiry regarding the march and states: “MPD received a permit application several months prior to the actual event, and there was several months of planning for this large event.”
But a Police Department spokeswoman told us that isn’t the case.
“MPD received a permit application for the March for Our Lives rally on Wednesday, February 21, 2018; which is several weeks prior to the March 24th event, not several months,” Karimah Bilal, a public affairs specialist with the department, said in an email.
Responding to our questions about the email’s authenticity, Bilal said that “to my knowledge the email Officer Scott Earhardt responded to is authentic; however, he used incorrect jargon to describe the permit application timeline.”
We submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the permit on file with the Police Department, but haven’t received it yet.
Reached by phone, Earhardt declined to comment and referred our questions to the department’s communications office. He reportedly told PolitiFact this week that he had mixed up the rally with the annual March for Life rally (held in January) — and that the March for Our Lives permit was issued March 13. (Bilal, however, told us the permit was issued March 7.)
The Feb. 21 application date cited by Bilal would coincide with the timing of an initial application for a permit for March for Our Lives that was submitted to the National Park Service. That application was filed Feb. 20, when the event was planned for the National Mall. The location was changed because another permit had been granted for the Mall that day.
The application for the march was filed by Deena Katz, a co-executive producer of “Dancing with the Stars.” BuzzFeed confirmed at the time that Katz, who also served as a co-executive director of the Women’s March Los Angeles organization, was helping to organize the march.
Though the National Mall wasn’t available, the National Park Service worked with organizers to find a different location, a spokesman confirmed in an email to us.
“The National Park Service identified multiple alternate locations for the March For Our Lives and on February 28 the organizers amended their permit application for the event to take place on Pennsylvania Avenue, between 3rd Street and 12th Street,” Mike Litterst said.
“The National Park Service and the Metropolitan Police Department issued separate permits for the demonstration for affected properties under our jurisdiction to ensure the safety of march participants, visitors, and city residents, as well as the protection of park and city resources.”
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label false stories flagged by readers on the social media network.
“Application for ‘March For Our Lives’ permit was made months before Parkland school shooting.” fellowshipofthemind.com. 30 Mar 2018.
Bilal, Karimah. Spokeswoman, Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia. Emails sent to FactCheck.org. 4 Apr 2018.
Georgantopoulos, Mary Ann and Brianna Sacks. “A Director For The Women’s March LA Put In A Permit For The Florida Students’ ‘March For Our Lives’ Rally.” Buzzfeed News. 21 Feb 2018.
Lefrak, Mikaela. “Organizers Of March For Our Lives Working To Find New Location For Rally.” NPR. 2 Mar 2018.
Litterst, Mike. Spokesman, National Park Service. Email sent to FactCheck.org. 4 Apr 2018.
“March For Our Lives event gathering permit application.” National Park Service. Accessed 4 Apr 2018.
March for Our Lives. “Frequently Asked Questions.” Accessed 4 Apr 2018.
Scanlan, Quinn. “Florida teen shooting survivors announce ‘March for Our Lives’ demonstration in Washington.” ABC News. 18 Feb 2018.
Soellner, Mica. “No, the March For Our Lives demonstration was not prepared several months in advance of its date.” Politifact. 3 Apr 2018.
Wm. Moyer, Justin. “‘March For Our Lives’ gun-control rally bumped from Mall by ‘talent show.’” Washington Post. 1 Mar 2018.
Women’s March Los Angeles. “Leadership.” Accessed 4 Apr 2018.