(NewsGlobal.com)- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will not provide a permit for a 5K memorial run honoring Jan. 6 defendant Matthew Perna to cross the Shenango Dam near Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, citing “security concerns” and the appearance of endorsing a political event in an election year.
After a 14-month battle with federal prosecutors, Perna committed suicide on Feb. 25, 2022.
On Oct. 15, a 5K will honor him.
The original race course crossed the almost 70-foot-high Shenango Dam, erected in 1961-65 for flood control.
Geri Perna, Matt Perna’s aunt, said she received a denial email on Aug. 22.
“Talk about kicking us when we’re down,” she lamented.
Matt Perna, a trail runner from Sharon, 70 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, routinely crossed the Shenango Dam. Geri Perna’s buddies suggested a 5K during his funeral.
Sharpsville agreed to host the race after the Corps of Engineers rejected it. “We’re grateful that our race will go as planned in Sharpsville,” she said.
Perna said that Matt’s group conceived the race at his burial. “It’s not political,” she said.
She wants to promote suicide prevention and mental disease awareness.
Perna said on the 5K competition website, “Matt fed his spirit and soul by running countless miles worldwide. Running gave him freedom and peace. Running helped him connect with people.”
“The application was denied,” Perna stated. “I didn’t know till last night. October 15 is the race. I’m furious.”
Matt Perna’s connection to the Jan. 6 incident in Washington was cited in a letter from Shenango River Lake resource officer William Spring.
“While your event raises awareness for suicide prevention and mental health, it’s also tied to Jan. 6, 2021,” Spring said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot allow passage across the dam due to security concerns and to avoid appearing to endorse political causes or perspectives in an election year.
The Corps of Engineers said the Matthew Perna Freedom 5K is a political event that violates regulations.
Corps officials warned Geri Perna that allowing the 5K would violate the Hatch Act.
The Hatch Act, passed in 1939, bans the political activities of federal, state, D.C., and local workers who work on federally supported programs.
The law ensures impartial administration of federal programs, protects federal employees from political influence in the workplace and promotes federal employees based on merit, not political affiliation.
Perna said the permit decision is similar to how the DOJ treated her nephew, who was charged with felony obstruction and misdemeanors for marching inside the Capitol on Jan. 6. She said he pleaded guilty because he wanted the thing finished.
Geri Perna claimed the lengthy procedure and prosecutors’ last-minute decision to seek 51 months in prison for someone who didn’t commit violence or destroy property led to her nephew’s death.