The regional government agency operating Portland International Airport is tightening its restrictions on protests.
On Jan. 28 and 29, hundreds of protesters gathered at the Portland International Airport to join demonstrations against President Donald Trump's executive order halting immigration from seven Muslim countries.
Protesters marched into the airport, marched through baggage claim and had a sit-in outside the departures gate.
On the second day of the protests, one counter-protester was hit in the face, and taken to the hospital.
Now, the Port of Portland is saying that protests will require a "Free Speech Permit."
In a news release this afternoon, officials at the Port of Portland say the demonstrations "created significant safety concerns for passengers and employees."
There was no damage to the airport, but Port of Portland spokesperson Kama Simonds says some businesses were robbed, and the protests caused some delays in flight schedules.
Now, groups of 10 people or more will be required to email email@example.com to get a permit.
The permits have no cost. Simonds says there has been no conversation about whether or not this will change.
The "Free Speech Permit" will designate a "Free Speech Zone" outside the terminal, which will likely be located on the upper outer roadway. The airport will no longer allow "roving protests."
"We had a lot of travelers and airport users who reached out to us and had a lot of concerns in light of the protest activities that were taking place," says Simonds. "It caused our leadership team to take a look at the free speech program that we had. This is not a new program."
She says the free speech program is very active; the Port has issued more than 2,000 permits total and average about 46 per week. Nobody has ever been denied a free speech permit, except twice, but for scheduling reasons.
She says these free speech permits are given to a wide variety of people, including people who hand out religious material, or speak about companies they're angry with.
The release continues:
“Under applicable law, airports are not public forums for free speech activity. he Port elects to provide space for free speech activities, but restricts the time, place and manner in which these activities occur to make sure the airport continues to operate smoothly and safely for those working at and traveling through the airport.”
Local activist Gregory McKelvey, who heads Portland's Resistance, is critical of the permit.
"I think it's ridiculous it's called that," McKelvey tells WW. "I think the Constitution is our free speech permit, and to require a permit from the same people enforcing the things we are protesting is counter-productive to what we are trying to protest."
McKelvey says that although the permit is free now, there's nothing saying they won't charge in the future.
"In the wake of a Trump presidency, we need to be expanding First Amendment rights to protest, not restricting them in any way," he says.
He also believes there's a lot of grey area with the permit. Yesterday, McKelvey and a group went to the airport to greet a refugee family who had just returned. He wonders if he would need a permit for that activity.
"I don't think groups like mine are going to care much about the mandatory permit," he says.