US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT - April 18, 1983
WHITE HOUSE SIDEWALK:
MECCA FOR AMERICA'S PROTESTERS
ABORTION FOES, feminists, farmers, nuclear-freeze advocates and war veterans may share little common ground on the issues. But when it comes to demonstrating, they often occupy the same turf--in front of the White House.
The sidewalk outside the northwest gate of the Executive Mansion is a magnet for protesters of every stripe. They are drawn not only by the symbolism of the place but also by the presence of network-television cameras nearby.
It is the closest America comes to having a forum like "speaker's corner" in London's Hyde Park, where listeners gather to hear impromptu oratory.
Among recent protesters were hundreds of sign-waving federal employees angrily opposed to requiring future government workers to join the Social Security system. At the same time, in Lafayette Square across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House anti-poverty demonstrators put up tents as part of a "Reaganville" to dramatize the President's cuts in social programs.
Most people picket for only a short while. But the White House fence also attracts a handful of vagrants eccentrics and diehard protesters who picket and hand out leaflets to tourists day in and day out for months or even years. One who was a regular for a time was Norman Mayer the man shot to death by police December when he drove his truck up to the 'Washington Monument and threatened to blow it up as a protest against nuclear arms.
Explains a White House security official: "People who are frustrated and can't get satisfaction anywhere else eventually come here."