It is interesting to note that the Obama administration, primarily through SecState Clinton, has in the past few weeks repeatedly admonished the governments of several countries in the middle east to tolerate and respect the right of their people to assemble and protest for change in their respective governments. Correctly, in my opinion.
However, I find this interesting, because I cannot help but wonder how things would be handled should a comparably sized crowd spontaneously appear on the National Mall to protest...well, anything...without first having obtained a permit from the Parks Service.
I realize that this is not an apples to apples comparison...presumably no such mechanism for obtaining prior permission existed in Mubarak's Egypt, or in the Ayatollah's Iran, and even if it did, it is unlikely that permission would be granted to a group openly critical of the government in power. Not so in the US...if a permit has ever been demonstrably denied a group for purely political reasons, it is news to me (I would welcome any factual correction on this point).
Still, there is something unsettling about the need to get the government's OK to exercise what is recognized as not only a constitutional right in this country, but a fundamental human one by the same government, at a particular time and place.