vol. 1, issue 1
November 1988

Peace Park,
Across From the White House

In Lafayette Park, also known as Peace Park, across from the While House, a dedicated group of people hold a 24 hour vigil for the eradication of nuclear weapons from this world. They sit at various sets of signs, through hot sun, rain and snow, bearing their messages, talking to tourists, politicians, the press, anyone who will listen, about the threat of nuclear annihilation, the plight of the homeless and the number of people who go to bed hungry each night on this planet. These individuals are determined to remain in front of the President's home until policies are changed; the government is determined to end their vigil. We mustn't allow the government to succeed.

Between 2 and 3 million tourists each year pass through Peace Park, all of whom see the signs. But unfortunately, the government is still at work devising new ways to remove the vigil. Frustrated by its inability to discourage the vigilers, the government has passed a number of laws pertaining directly to Peace Park's nonviolent demonstrations. Regulations were passed concerning demonstrations on the White House sidewalk and in Lafayette Park. Some of these regulations concerned the size (3'x3') and number (two) of signs each individual may be responsible for; the amount of personal gear, food and literature they can have at the signs (enough for one twenty-four hour period); and how many sleeping bags or blankets each vigiler could have (it's arbitrary: one in warm weather, in cold weather it's up to the discretion of the individual vs. park police officers). They cannot have any chairs or tables, nor can they put plastic across the tops of the signs to cover themselves when it rains or snows, as these would be construed as structures. Camping regulations have also been passed, to prevent people from sleeping at any point in their 24 hour vigil. All of these laws are blatantly unconstitutional, and have done nothing to damper the spirit and resolve of the vigilers.

Many of the vigilers have been put in federal prison for the crime of speaking out against their nation's genocidal and illegal nuclear weapons policy. The first amendment, which guarantees the right to freedom of speech and to publicly redress our grievances, seems to no longer exist. But the vigilers at Peace Park continue undaunted. As of this writing, the vigilers are working with the homeless in Lafayette Park. They feed people every night between 6:00 and 7:00, they get blankets and clothing for the people from local shelters and distribute them, and they contact public health services in hopes of finding showers for the homeless. Ellen and Thomas are also looking for a building that can be used for peace offices as well as a place to feed people, give showers and have laundry facilities to clean clothes and hopefully have lockers where the homeless could keep clothing, blankets and personal items.

Peace Park could use a lot of help. If you live in the area, or are planning to pass through, you might want to stop by and offer them some support. They would love to talk with any peace-seeking individuals. You might also consider signing their petition for global nuclear disarmament. For more information, you can write them at Peace Park Anti-Nuclear Vigil, P.O. Box 27217, Washington D.C. 20038; or call (202) 462-0757.