Sunday, March 27, 1988
The Washington Post,
An Independent Newspaper
Keeping Watch in Peace Park
On Jan. 28, four members of the Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil were sentenced in U.S. district court for allegedly "camping" in Lafayette Park. Vigil founder William Thomas received 60 days; Ellen Thomas, his wife, Stephen Semple and Philip Joseph got 50 days each. The basis of the charge: laying down bedding in preparation for sleep and intermittent sleep beside wooden signs saying in effect, "Unless man eliminates nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons will eliminate man.
On March 2 the Thomases were returned to court (William Thomas from Occoquan II at Lorton, Ellen Thomas from the federal prison at Lexington, Ky.) for sentencing on the same charge, but covering different dates. The additional jail term imposed was 30 days each.
Here The Post, coming in on the story for the first time, unaccountably missed a beat. Despite an extensive UPI story, City Paper double spread, etc.-which were delivered personally to and discussed with an assistant editor at The Post-on March 3 The Post reported of both the Thomases and "several other peace demonstrators" that "they had not been sentenced to prison previously. The total sentence, according to the story, was merely 30 days and, further, the extraordinary 24-hour vigil has been held a mere "several years," rather than the actual seven.
Facing the White House from Peace Park, Bob and Lynn Dorrough and others keep the vigil unbroken. Some will continue to risk imprisonment on the principle that freedom of speech in the service of humanity transcends governance of Lafayette Park as a showplace rather than a public forum. Others literally pray for a place of sanctuary where some participants in the vigil might sleep, recuperate and do the things all persons need to do beneath a welcoming roof, while others lawfully keep the watch.
In this aim, as in so much, the voice of The Post might well be decisive in helping to restore peace to Peace Park. Its silence cannot be.