Washington Times March 18, 1983

Dear callers and letter writers.

We appreciate and share your concern over word that the bums are back, littering the White House gate with their hand-lettered messages. The day before yesterday, we reported that the clutter of "protest" signs defacing the Pennsylvania Avenue side had been cleared away by the United States Park Police.

But the feds can't keep the fence permanently clear of the wallboard placards. About all they can do is hustle off to jail the two, day-in, day-out regular sign-owners -- a woman named Concepcion Picciottio and a man named William Thomas -- for violating the rule against structures in front of the White House.

The Park Service describes these as "mobile homes on wheels." Painted with vague, anti-"nuke" gibberish, one measures about six-by-eight-by-three feet, the other about eight-by-nine-by-four feet. Piccionio sleeps in one, Thomas in the other.

Friday, the day after our editorial, "Defacing the White House, Act III," which urged the Interior Department to ban all but hand-held signs, the U.S. Park Police moved in. The protest shacks were rolled off federal turf (1600 Pennsylvania Avenue) to D.C. turf in front of the Old Executive Office Building.

There, District police cited the shanties as sidewalk "living abodes" and gave the occupants four hours to scram. Whereupon, Thomas set his wheeled shack afire, scorching a marble column and the fence of the EEOB. The police arrested him for arson and destruction of government property.

Thomas is the same gentleman whom police picked up for questioning when his sometime fellow loiterer, Norman Mayer, was threatening to blow up the Washington Monument for "peace" three months ago. On that day,Thomas broke free and ran over to Mayer for an "unauthorized" chat. Later, Mayer, attempting to flee the Monument in his "dynamite truck," died in a hail of police bullets.

Sunday, two days after Thomas had torched his porta-shack. Picciottio showed up with a grocery-can-sum-protest-sign contraption. (She once said the wigs and aluminum she wears on her head protect her from "short waves and gases" the government is directing at her.)

Park Police told her to get the "cart structure" off federal property but Thomas. beck out of jail as usual, said the cart was a sign (you know, free speech and ail) and wouldn't let it be moved. The police arrested him and carted off the cart, to which was attached the painted wallboard placards that Picciottio, Thomas and friends usually lean against the White House fence. For the first time in recent memory, an unobstructed view of the White House was available. But not for long.

By Tuesday, the signs were back. Unlike the mobile shanties, they don't violate regulations, and won't until the Interior Department issues the new regulations we've urged banning all but band-held signs. Even Chief Justice Burger's grant of a temporary stay yesterday of an appeals court decision that sleeping in Lafayette Park is a form of free speech doesn't alter the situation.

Only a permanent stay will keep the park clear of st least live-in "tent cities" for the year and a half it may take the Supreme Court to overturn the "sleep is speech" ruling. If, that is, the high court agrees to hear the Justice Department's appeal of that moronic decision in the first place.

A permanent stay is crucial to a civilized society tired of having its pride in America mugged by pitiable lunatics and by an appeals court too cross-eyed to tell the difference between genuine free speech and permissive indulgence of childish willfulness and the delusions of the insane.