- Matthew Perna took his own life in early 2022
- Perna participated in the 2020 capitol protests
- He later pleaded guilty to associated rioting charges
- Friends and family sought to honor him with a memorial run
- The US Army Corps refused to approve a permit for the event
(NewsReady.com) – The organizers of a memorial run have been forced to find a new route after the Army Corps of Engineers refused to issue a permit. The event, scheduled for October 15, commemorates a defendant in the January 6 case who committed suicide under pressure from prosecutors.
Who Is Being Honored?
Matt Perna was a 37-year-old Pennsylvania State University graduate who enjoyed trail running and travel. Last January 6, he traveled from his home in Sharon, PA, to Washington, DC, to participate in the protest against the election result. When the protest turned into a riot, Perna entered the Capitol building with the crowd. He later admitted to taking photos and hitting a window with a metal pole at that location.
When the FBI began looking for rioters, Perna immediately turned himself in. He later pleaded guilty to four charges but hung himself on February 25. Now, his family wants to commemorate his life with an annual five km (three mile) run, raising money for suicide victims, mental health sufferers, and anyone affected by the January 6 riot. The planned route crosses the Shenango Dam, one of Perna’s favorite places and a feature in many routes he ran.
Officials Deny Permit
Unfortunately for the family, the 720-foot-long Shenango Dam is administered by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and any public event on it needs a permit. On August 22, Perna’s aunt Geri, one of the organizers of the run, received an email from USACE telling her the permit application had been denied.
In a follow-up letter, Shenango River Lake Resource Officer William Spring admitted that Perna’s links to the January 6 riot had scuppered the application. Although he praised Geri for raising awareness about suicide and mental health, he said because of “security concerns” and the risk the USACE could look like it was endorsing a political cause, no permit would be issued.
Geri Perna also says an Army official told her that allowing the run to cross the dam would violate the 1939 Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities, better known as the Hatch Act.
The Hatch Act prohibits civil service employees in the executive branch of the federal government, as well as state and local employees paid from federal funds, from taking part in some kinds of political activity. It initially covered using taxpayers’ money to bribe voters. Still, it did not apply to the US military, including the USACE, and Geri Perna says it shouldn’t cover a run in a publicly-funded park, either. “All they would be doing is running across the bridge that goes over the dam,” she said.
Is that political enough to justify denying a permit and forcing a memorial run to change its route?
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