On March 2, Peace Park vigilers William and Ellen Thomas, already in prison serving 60- and 50- day sentences for "camping" in violation of Parks Service regulations, received additional 30-day sentences on another count of the same charge.
Ellen Thomas was released April 16. She will rejoin the vigil across the street from the White House. In March, vigilers Stephen Semple, Philip Joseph, Carl Musser and Scott Galindez were also released from jail after serving up to five months on similar charges. William Thomas is due out April 26.
Following are excerpts from recent letters from Ellen Thomas:
As I write this, I'm looked in a cell in D.C. jail, surrounded by 50 women in cages ehreiking their nightly cacophony of frustration.
Since January 28 I've been carted in shackles on an incredible journey through our penal system - from court to D.C. jail; by prisoner air transport to Lexington, Kentucky federal prison; by commercial airline (in custody of three marshals!) to an Alexandria, Virginia jail; then back to court and D.C. jail on writ. I'm awaiting transport back to Kentucky to finish my 80-day sentence. All at taxpayers' expense, of course. I'm actually quite grateful for this grueling trek, because every dollar spent on my "punishment" is one less dollar spent on weapons…
My outrage with our 'justice' system balloons - I've met entirely too many people suffering unjust laws and sentences, and brutal enforcement policies...
My 'crime' wrapping in a blanket in 32-dagree weather while tending anti-nuclear signs outside the White House in Lafayette Park, historic First Amendment front line and birthplace of the Peace Park, anti-nuclear vigil, from which Peace Park has now taken its name...
For four years I've worked in Peace Park, beside my husband [William Thomas initiated the vigil over seven years ago - eds ] without ordinary comforts or protection from the elements other than the clothes we wear, whatever blankets are required to keep out the cold, and a piece of plastic draped over our bodies and Literature as needed to keep off rain or snow. We use no tent or other type of shelters. Although we may fall asleep invoIuntarity, we remain responsive to anyone - police or public, friend or 'foe' - who may address us. That is, aftar all, why we're there. We leave our signs in the custody of others while we perform hygienic and other biologically necessary function; while we cook, telephone, type and lobby all property we store outside the park in the limited space that friends make available
Yet we're occused of using Peace Park, 'for living Accommodation purposes,' and have bean convicted on the evidence that we took precautions to keep from freezing to death. The justification given for our incarceration was boldly stated by Judge Charles Richey in sentencing us ' to deter others from adopting your lifestyle " (The harshness of that lifestyle has so far been a more-than-adequate deterrence)
Without public protect, Peace Park anti-nuclear vigilers may be doomed to repeated and more prolonged imprisonment for peacefully exercising their religious beliefs (maximum sentence for 'camping' in Peace Park is six months)
I therefore urge you to write to the President, your Congresspersons, Secreteary of Interior, U S Court of Appeals, and particularly the press, protesting the Government policies which are barring peace activists from public view and sending them to jail.
U S Park, Police and U S Attorneys, (often, we are told, under 'orders' from above) have brought us to court many times under the "camping" and other absurd Peace Park, regulations. Usually charges have been dropped, dismissed, or have brought acquittal This is the fires time that any judge has imprisoned any of us for a "camping" conviction.
We 'American' humans, no matter how much we admire our country's principles - the Bill of Rights - must see we have a major overhaul ahead of us to bring reality in line with potential Yet our time is so short and we each must choose our cause carefully.
I still believe that nuclear annihilation is the most compelling and unifying threat facing humanity. Perhaps in resolving that problem, we'll resolve many others, but oh! how it hurts not to we able to help everyone suffering because of the insensitivity and warped priorities of our brothers and sisters... . .
Special greetings to the peace community in prison. Special thanks to our friends in the D C area and everywhere. Blessings to jail workers for Global Peace.
LovingIy and eternally free,
For more information and to express support, please contact the Peace Park Anti-nuclear
Vigil at the White House: P.O. Box 27217; Washington, DC 20038: (202)462-3542.