UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Third Declaration of William Thomas
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
William Thomas, et. al. | C.A. No. 94-2742
Plaintiffs pro se, | Judge Charles R. Richey
The United States, et. al. |
THIRD DECLARATION OF WILLIAM THOMAS, MARCH 1, 1995
I William Thomas, hereby declare under penalty of perjury that the following is
accurate and correct to the best of my knowledge and recollection.
1. Because of my poverty, signs are the only method available to me for
communicating directly with the general public on issues of broad public concern.
2. I personally constructed the signs referred to in Mr. Myers' and Mr. Robbins'
letters, and I know, therefore, that they conform to all the size and height requirements
of the National Park Service regulations contained at 36 C.F.R. 7.96 (g)(x)(B)(2)
3. I intentionally designed the present configuration of sign braces after careful
consideration, forethought and attention to compliance with the regulations, public
safety, and health concerns.
4. The signs which defendants have threatened to take "action" against are,
with the exception of minor changes to the configuration of the support braces,
essentially identical to signs which have been a basic component of my, Ellen's and
Concepcion's expressive activity with the general public since at least March 5, 1986,
when the current version first went into effect, as also pictured in Mr. Myers' letter.
5. We had no intention of offending or irritating anyone by building a better sign,
my only intention was to communicate as effectively, attractively and inoffensively as
the regulations would allow, which we did from August until Officer O'Neill, for
whatever reason, decided he wanted to make an issue of it in November.
6. The regulation specifically states, "signs may not be elevated in a manner so
as to exceed a height of six (6) feet at their highest point." Nor does the regulation
say anything about how the expressly permitted "braces that are reasonably required
to meet support and safety requirements" must be configured.
7. Mr. Myers states, "You only need to return your signs to the construction that
you successfully utilized for may years and which is depicted in the photographs of
April 28, 1991."
8. That "construction" was, as it should have been under freedom of thought,
my own design, without any consultation with, advice or approval from the National
Park Service. Since I don't claim to be any kind of authority, I can see no reasonable
basis for Mr. Myers to adopt my design as a National Park Service standard for the
politically correct structural integrity of expressive signs in Lafayette Park, and decree
that I may not, under penalty of law, deviate from my original design.
10. Mr. Myers' letter states, "From the enclosed photographs, it appears that
you constructed a raised platform which is at least six inches off the ground AND
WHICH HAS THEN been attached to each sign." EMPHASIS ADDED.
11. As the builder of the sign in question, I can state with absolute certainly
that, in reality, Mr. Myers has it backwards. By inspecting the actual construction of
the signs it becomes apparent that the truth is opposite of what appears to Mr. Myers.
I.e., I did
not "construct a raised platform which was then attached to each sign," (or
even to which a sign was attached):
12. FIRST, I prepared "the sign," which is no more than one quarter inch thick,
and not larger than four (4) feet by four (4) feet, applying five coats of exterior base
13. SECOND, I cut and notched two six foot and two four foot "reasonably
required" braces which I attached to the "sign"
14. THIRD, I cut and notched other braces, "reasonably required to meet
support and safety requirements," which were then quite properly attached to the two
six foot braces, to which "the sign" had already been properly attached.
15. FOURTH, and finally, to provide the structural integrity without which
"support and safety requirements" could not possibly be accomplished the base of the
"sign" support system was put in place.
16. In following the steps of construction (which can be reconstructed by
physically examining the support system itself), it becomes apparent that in reality Mr.
Myers is only looking at "a sign ... no larger than four (4) feet in length, four (4) feet in
width and one-quarter (1/4) inch in thickness (exclusive of braces that are reasonably
required to meet support and safety requirements and that are not used so as to form
an enclosure of two (2) or more sides ... that (are) not elevated in a manner so as to
exceed a height of six (6) feet above the ground at their highest point," which is
precisely what "conformity to regulations" requires. See, 36 C.F.R. 7.96(g)(x)(2)(B).
17. That a base is an incontestably essential element of any sign support
is evidenced by the fact that each and every sign, particularly those which Mr.
Myers identifies as being supported by "construction ... which conformed to the
regulations," has a base, the base is just s few inches closer to the ground, but that
insignificant difference renders the signs with the lower bases far less safe in a wind.
18. Mr. Myers also expresses concern that people might sit on the raised base
of the sign. But, as is apparent from Mr. Myers' April 28, 1991 photographs, people
also sat on the base of the sign when it was lower, and nothing in the regulation says
that people can't sit on the base.
19. The square foot area of the sign bases is exactly the same (16 sq ft) in the
pictures which Mr. Myers identifies as "in conformity" and those which he classifies as
"not in conformity." Even assuming there was any legitimate reason or authority to
prohibit people from sitting on the base of a sign, the fact that a base of the exact
same square footage might be raised some distance "above the ground" does not
increase the number of people who might sit on it.
20. Mr. Myers is factually incorrect in stating that I had "successfully utilized"
the previous "construction."
21. Since the threatened signs do not exceed the limits set by the regulation, I
do not believe that our reasons for configuring the sign supports in any manner I like
(within size limitations, or course) is of any legitimate concern to defendants.
However, for the record, I'll explain a couple of reasons why I think the new
configuration is better than worse.
22. First, we have complained ever since the beginning (Proposed Rule,
1984), the regulations as written would make it practically impossible to
secure the signs from blowing over in the wind, and, from our practical experience the
previous configuration was an unsuccessful utilization of all possible sign support
23. As to the "practical imposs(ability)," it appears a previously unconsidered
idea now shows I was mistaken. One of the primary motivating factors for the new
improved design was to remedy the dangerous situation of signs blowing in the wind.
24. One intentional reason for raising the base of the sign above the ground
was to provide aerodynamic sign stabilization. Concepcion's signs, which are still
constructed under the old design have blown over several times in the wind. The new
design, allowing the wind to blow at the same velocity above and below the flat base,
acting on the same principle as an aircraft wing, seems to have provided the
stabilization which has kept the new signs from blowing over in the same winds, a big
plus for public safety.
25. An expected tangential benefit of raising the base of the sign above the
ground was to ease the pain of physical aliments aggravated by being close to the
ground in cold weather. Over the years Ellen has documented these health problems
in letters to various Park Service and DOI personnel, including Patricia Bangert, Mr.
Myers' predecessor in Mr. Robbins' office.
26. I think this tangential benefit is justified by the circumstances of Ellen's
physical well-being. But, because of the fact that Ellen has endured for years despite
pain and discomfort.
27. After one thinks about it, one can probably appreciate how difficult it is to
maintain an aesthetically pleasing demonstration in a public park. But Ellen and
Concepcion put an incredible amount of effort into doing just that.
28. An unintentional, unexpected additional benefit was a marked increase in
the number of compliments we received on the aesthetic appearance of the signs.
29. Ellen and I had been using the signs in question as presently configured,
and allegedly not in conformity, 24 hours a day, seven days a week in Lafayette Park
since August, 1994.
30. Although the signs had been seen hundreds of times by Park Police
officers, including Officers O'Neill and Keness, it was not until November, 1994 that
Officers O'Neill and Keness seized, upon the configuration of the support braces as a
pretext for harassing us with threats of arrest and seizure of the signs.
31. Because, over the years, I have come to suspect that trying to expose the
truth behind Mr. Robbins' malicious enforcement policies through the available fact
finding systems is a poor expenditure of energy, in November, 1994 I wrote Mr.
Robbins a letter hoping to avoid arrests and/or litigation.
32. At first I tried to discuss Officer O'Neill's opinion in a civilized manner,
33. After I wrote to Mr. Robbins in November, 1994, the harassment about
signs stopped, without arrest or seizure. Officer O'Neill turned his attention to new
"(I)n the unlikely event that you too think this "sign" is a "structure" under the
applicable regulatory provisions, please specify the precise structural alterations
you believe would be required to bring the "structure" into compliance as a
"sign." ADDITIONALLY, PLEASE MAKE THAT INFORMATION AVAILABLE
TO ME AS SOON AS POSSIBLE SO WE CAN DISCUSS POSSIBLE
CORRECTIVE MEASURES THEREBY AVOIDING A BASELESS ARREST,
AND THE UNNECESSARY DISRUPTION OF MY RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY."
Thomas' letter, November, 1994
harassment about flags.
34. Because more than six weeks went by with no objection from Mr. Robbins
or his associates at the time the Complaint was filed, it seemed reasonable to infer
that his office was in agreement that our permissible "sign" had not become an
35. Thus, I had reason to believe the signs in question conformed to the
regulation when this Complaint was filed, and on their faces Mr. Myers' and Mr.
Robbins' late coming letters provide no reason for me to think differently.
36. The first purported official response to my letter of November 10, 1994
didn't arrive until January 23, 1995, a month after this complaint had been filed.
36. Now, in his letter of February 23, 1995, Mr. Robbins complains "more than
three weeks have now elapsed since Mr Myers' letter."
37. I believe, Mr. Robbins' and Myers' letters reveal a very dangerous and
wrong-headed notion that they, their subordinates and/or superiors may simply dictate
"the law" at whim. Had Mr. Robbins responded as "promptly" as he is required by
law, as he demands of us in his letter of February 23, 1995, the instant case most
likely would never have occurred, nor would the death of Marcelino Corneil, nor the
irreparable injury, in the form of both deprivation of constitutional rights and maliciously
inflicted psychological torment suffered by Ellen, Concepcion, and myself.
38. Additionally, I believe, Mr. Robbins' threats to unleash physical violence and
imprisonment on our persons unless we submit to Mr. Myers' arbitrary and
architecturally unsound construction dictates is an inappropriate response to the letter
I wrote him, requesting that "we ... discuss possible corrective measures thereby
avoiding a baseless arrest, and the unnecessary disruption of my religious activity."
This 1st day of March, 1995.