Permit Dispute Arises Over Stewart, Colbert Rallies

Just days before millions of Americans vote in the midterm elections, comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are encouraging their viewers to gather on the National Mall in Washington D.C. but organizers have yet to secure the necessary permit giving them access to the site.

The duo made the announcement on their respective Comedy Central shows Thursday night with "The Daily Show" host Stewart calling his event a “Rally to Restore Sanity.”

"The Colbert Report" host is calling his event "March to Keep Fear Alive."

In introducing the event, scheduled for October 30, Stewart through his humor made clear the gathering is supposed to be the antithesis of other large events including Glenn Beck’s "Restoring Honor" rally held last month and the 1995 "Million Man March." It is supposed to appeal to people who are not politically involved or are otherwise too busy in their lives with social activism.

Stewart's website notes Oct. 30 was chosen as a date "of no significance whatsoever."

A source familiar with the permit application filed by Comedy Central said the network is planning for 25,000 people to attend the early afternoon event.

Stewart said the rally is “for some nice people to get together for fun—maybe some special guests and some great conversation. It will be like being in a chat room—but real.”

A Comedy Central spokeswoman said more details will come out in the next few weeks but that the producers of the shows involved have already “secured a location on the [National] Mall.”

That assertion is disputed by the National Park Service which is responsible for approving permits from groups that want to gather on the National Mall. Communications officer Bill Line said the NPS is in receipt of Comedy Central’s permit application dated September 8 but has not yet approved the event.

Line said the proposed rally is for the area just north of the Washington Monument. He said this application will be processed like all others and will not be approved until the NPS is satisfied that the permit applicants will cover all appropriate contingencies.

While not willing to discuss the particulars of this particular case -- “I will not negotiate with the news media, Line said --" negotiations normally involve NPS concerns over covering costs associated with the event and making sure there’s an appropriate police presence.