Washington Post
September 1, 1985

Speaking Out in Peace Park

Edwin M. Yoder Jr. argues that the demonstrators in Lafayette Park violate his "fifth freedom" the right to enjoy the beauty of America ["Liberty and Junk for All," op ed, Aug. 24]. In this manner, the demonstrators forfeit their rights of petition and free speech, I 'm curious as to what lengths Mr. Yoder would suggest we go to preserve the order and beauty of our society. Under whose guide~lines shall we determine if something or someone is an eyesore?

I find the demonstrations at Lafayette Park to be magnificent monuments to the strength and vitality of the democratic system in the United States. I find them every bit as beautiful and as important as the Lincoln and Washington memorials.

In one sense, Mr. Yoder is correct. Other capital cities of the world do keep order and "beauty" in their cityscapes, I understand Gorky Park in Russia has been free of protesters for some time now.



Congratulations to the Park Service on its new, if somewhat timid, rules on the use of Lafayette Park. When the new Execu- tive Office Building and the new Court of Claims were built, great care was taken and expense incurred to preserve the charm and the beauty of Lafayette Park. For a few years a handful of zealots who wrap themselves in the cloak of the First Amendment have been able seriously to detract from the beauty of the square with their billboards and other impedimenta.

They could not so clutter up the landscape in front of the Supreme Court, the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial or Mount Vernon. What logic requires that this clutter be allowed in front of the White House? In other cities, both here and abroad, those with a cause and a message for the public have designated places to discuss them without a lot of visual clutter. London has a corner in Hyde Park; Edinburgh a place on Princess Street, and New York has its Union Square. Recently The Post carried an article recommending that the locus for visual or verbal protests be moved to the Ellipse, behind the White House. Why doesn't the Park Service adopt this recommendation!


Chevy Chase

Edwin M. Yoder Jr.'s "Liberty and Junk for All" ignores the important issues involved in the right of petitioners to raise their signs in Lafayette Park. Irrespective of First Amendment concerns, the "clutter," as Mr. Yoder describes it, in Peace Park should be allowed to survive in an unrestricted fashion.

The issue at hand is one of alienation, a subject Mr. Yoder's column ignores. These protesters, who find it necessary to spend their days warning of nuclear holocaust and constitutional destruction, have become estranged from the mainstream of American life. Their concerns seem magnified to the rest of us for that very reason.Twenty-foot signs are the magnification of that estrangement.

Mr. Yoder should concern himself more with why such unfortunate men and women find it necessary to forsake shelter and decent living conditions in order to voice what they believe to be legitimate concerns, Esoteric issues of the aesthetic quality of Lafayette Park are the only concern of Mr. Yoder. Such insensitivity is symptomatic of the very reasons that these people feel alienated from the American system.