DEFACING THE WHITE HOUSE UPDATE
Washington Times March 18, 1983
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
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
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
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
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.
Dear callers and letter writers.