City Paper,
March 24, 1988

Give Peace Park a Chance

(DIS)REGARDING WILLRICH'S article of February 26, "The Politics of Peace Park,": Fools—Who exactly is responsible for the arrests, convictions, and jailings of four anti-nuclear demonstrators on charges called "camping?" I'll give you a few hints: It wasn't their fellow demonstrators. It wasn't even individual park police of officers. It certainly wasn't the homeless.

Our First Amendment supposedly protects ' assembly, protest, speech, and religion. That means that it protects these rights only as bag as protesters remain ineffective and their messages sages palatable? And Willrich punted Richard Robbins as the sympathetic public servants! Limited freedom is an oxymoron. The limits placed on the rights exercised by demonstrators in Lafayette Park prove how little dissent our government will actually tolerate in the name of a fallacious democratic image.

But First Amendment violations are not THE MESSAGE presented in Peace Park. This is the reason why the four Anti-Nuclear vigilers witnessed and why others continue freedom witness in their absence (despite the real threat of arrest and imprisonment): A selfish and myopic society allows its leaders freedom draw its members into hateful and brutal (violent) attitudes, to the brink of genocide and the unspeakable misery of nuclear war. But something can be done.

Do the City Paper. its editors, and particularly Michael Willrich and Darrow Montgomery wish to further injure the effectiveness of this message? Is it most important to sell a witty, inaccurate, irresponsible human interest story? Do they give their lives to work for peace and justice? I know a dozen or so activists who do. They work in Peace Park—educating and empowering people.

Come talk with them.

Lynn Fredriksson-Dorrough
Peace Park

Peace Part Two

"PRAISE BE" FOR YOUR ARTICLE on Peace Park ("The Politics of Peace Park." 2/26). It was a good introduction to a very unusual and fascinating story. Please now—finish the story.

You could entice part two as "Watchers at the Gate" or "AII Along the Watchtower."

This we do—we watch. We pray. We immerse ourselves in conversations with residents and tourists. We pass out literature. We collect petitions. We put our bodies and souls on the line—literally.

Now, these things may sound boring to CP readers. Terms like "Give Peace a Chance" and "Bread not Bombs" have already been deemed out of fashion, though the world has yet to embrace these terms.

Dig it—we're not out here, through rain and snow, out of self-interest or vanity. We're out here for the ever-constant cause of humanity. We are the conscience the White House lacks. America laughs—and the Third World screams. Children starve—as big business dreams.

Dear CP, where do you stand? Do you stand? Please—finish the story.

Peace Park

The Law Won

MICHAEL WELLRICH'S EXCELLENT article about the Lafayette Park vigilers ("The Politics of Peace Park." 2/26) accurately noted that the ACLU had not challenged the latest demonstration regulations in court. Because some readers might have mistaken our inaction for approval. I write to make clear our belief that existing restriction area gratuitous harassment of persons exercising First Amendment Rights, and thus unconstitutional. However, our losses in several previous Lafayette Park and White House sidewalk cases persuaded us that we would most likely lose a court challenge to the latest rules, and we concluded that discretion was, on this occasion, the better part of valor. We look forward to the day when the courts (and the citizenry) will be as eager to protect the speech of Concepcion Picciotto and William Thomas as they are to protect the speech of Katharine Graham and Larry Flynt.

Arthur B. Spitzer
Legal Director
American Civil Liberties Union of the National Area
Washington, D.C.

Peaceful Sentence

Lafayette Park Protesters Get Another 30 Days

On March 2, peace activists Ellen and William Thomas were sentenced to 30 days in prison for camping in Lafayette Park just across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. As members of an informal alliance of peace activists who maintain a 24-hour protest vigil in the park, Ellen and William Thomas were already serving 50 and 60 days respectively for a previous camping arrest (see "The Politics of Peace Park," 2/26).

Two other members of the Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil, Philip Joseph and Stephen Semple are currently completing 50-day terms, also for camping.

The sentences fall well short of the maximum possible punishment for camping in Lafayette Park—six months in jail and a $500 fine. Still, the sentence handed down is harsher than sentences federal judges have applied in the past for the same offense. Prior to his present incarceration, none of William Thomas' 30-some arrests in the park had ever brought him longer than a weekend in jail. Thomas has been protesting in front of the Executive Mansion round the clock since 1981.

Meanwhile back in the park, the remaining members of the Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil invite the public to join them in an all-night vigil on March 12 to protest the arrests. The fliers advise: "dress warmly, bring a blanket and sleep if you dare."
- Michael Willrich