June 24, 1984
TO: International Broadcast and Print Media
RE: WHITE HOUSE ANTI-NUCLEAR VIGIL
MESSAGE FROM JAIL:
"FACING UP TO 2 YEARS IMPRISONMENT FOR EXERCISE OF FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS"
Our recent experience with the judicial system leads us to believe that freedom of speech (the most sacred right protected by the Constitution's Bill of Rights) is gasping for oxygen under the onslaught of self-aggrandizement, apathy, and the sheer bulk of the mostly useless "information" appearing in the press.
My husband, Thomas, has been maintaining a 24-hour vigil for peace in front of the White House for three years. Indications are that Mr. Reagan finds Thomas' vigil offensive. This vigil consists of large, professionally painted signs protesting nuclear weapons and other forms of insanity, distribution of writings, and Socratic communication of ideas which are by and large contrary to the Administration's policies, the foremost idea being to "love your neighbor as yourself."
I joined Thomas on April 13 of this year. We and others who agree with us maintain our vigil against inhumane odds. Today I'm writing you from jail. We were arrested yesterday morning (June 23) for "camping and storage" -- the 23rd time for Thomas in three years, and the second time for me in three weeks. On June 6 three of us were beaten by a police officer. Thank God no one responded physically, or I fear someone would have been seriously injured. This same officer charged us with assaulting him and perjured himself in court, and the judge accepted his lies without question.
Thomas may go to jail for six months in a few days for "camping," and currently faces up to 21 years in prison for exercising his right to free speech in a peaceful manner, always striving to conform to rules end regulations which are subjectively and arbitrarily interpreted and enforced and which are designed to make a 24-hour vigil such a hardship that only a person of superhuman conviction would be willing to stick with it.
Thomas and I are determined, however, and we will continue our vigil in front of the White House unless we are permanently jailed. We believe that this may occur very soon. I have sworn if Thomas goes to jail I will raise my voice so loud that the country -the world -- will have to recognize the injustice that is taking place.
I enclose our "We Believe" statement, which explains why we're on strike for peace. I pray that you personally will have an opportunity to read this letter, and that you will come visit us at our signs. I believe if you talk to us you will find the experience refreshing, and perhaps you will be inspired to do what you can to inform the so far uninformed public of what we're doing, why, and against what odds.
We have nearly given up hope about the objectivity of the press because, while Thomas has been visually and verbally speaking out day and night for three years, the media takes little notice either of his message or of the unconstitutionality of his 23 arrests, merely writing about us as eyesores and clutter before the tourists' lenses, interviewing the police but neglecting to interview us, and therefore misrepresenting the truth. I pray you will help correct this inequity.
We look forward to hearing from you, because if we don't I fear I will be convinced that apathy and insanity reign and free speech has indeed suffocated. I fear for a world that prefers entertainment to knowledge, that honors only the words of people with money and power, and ignores the truth that if we don't soon learn to live together without weapons we're very soon going to die together a very horrible death.
Ellen B. Thomas
White House Vigil
P. O. Box 27217
Washington, D.C. 20038