WHITE HOUSE CLEAR OF SIGNS AND PROTESTERS
Washington Times March 16, 1983
Police are denying there is any new policy, but the street
people and the clutter of protest signs have disappeared from in
front of the White House.
William Thomas, an anti-nuclear protester, has been swept
away by police three times since last Friday. And others, such
as Concepcion Picciotto, another anti-nuke regular who plastered
her signs at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, have vanished from the
The U.S. Park Police deny there is any new crackdown, but
there has been a near feud involving the police, the courts and
various Lafayette Park protesters for at least two years, and
sources have told The Washington Times that the cluttered
sidewalks in front of the White House have been a topic of
discussion lately among the Secret Service, the Park Police and
the U.S. Attorney's Office.
"It has been an ongoing problem," sadi Sandra Alley,
spokeswoman for the National Park Service.
"Hundreds of thousands of people come to Washington, the
nation's catipal, and for many of these it is a once in a
"We must protect the rights of these persons who visit the
capital, as well as theose who demonstrate. But I don't think
I'd call it a crackdown."
Thomas was arrested Friday and charged with arson, when,
according to Metropolitan Police, he poured a flammable fluid on
a three-sided wooden structure and set fire to it.
Thomas, who police say has "no fixed address," was warned
shortly before his arrest by Park Police that the presence of the
structure, in which Thomas sometimes sat, was in violation of the
law. Thomas claims it is a sign and, therefore, protected by
First Amendment rights.
After the warning, Thomas moved his structure toward the Old
Executive Office Building. when he ignited it, he was arrested
by D.C. police because he had moved into their jurisdiction.
Thomas phoned the American Civil Liberties Union yesterday
morning and reported he had been arrested Friday, Sunday and
yesterday in front of the White House, ACLU spokesman Arthur
After Friday's arrest, General Services Administration
employees showed up in front of the White House to haul away
Thomas' several protest signs.
"He's been a regular protester at the White House sidewalk
close to two years." Spitzer said. "He did say when he called
that he has to make more signs." The ACLU does not have a view
whether Thomas' rights are being infringed or not. "We have
never represented him in court."
The Washington Times printed two editorials in February
berating, "the garbage that passes for protest signs" in front of
the White House and calling for "an act of Congress if necessary"
to clean up the mess.
Neither the Park Police nor anyone else would acknowledge
yesterday that a concerted cleanup was under way. But with the
arrest of Thomas three different times, the other protesters
along Pennsylvania Avenue have departed.
It is the first time, old White House watchers said, at
least since before the Vietnam War, that strollers can get a
clear view through all parts of the fence along Pennsylvania
by Gene Gotz
Washington Times Staff