FEBRUARY 26, 1992
William Thomas
Peace Park Anti-Nuclear Vigil
P.O. Box 27217
Washington, D.C. 20038
(202) 462-0757

Since 1981 Concepcion Picciotto, Ellen Thomas and myself have maintained a twenty-four hour vigil in front of the White House. We have used signs and literature for the intent and purpose of communicating with the general public on issues of broad concern. Generally we have urged the public, and the President himself, to implement policies which would achieve "Peace through Reason." We sincerely believe that through our continuous presence and communications we are working for the welfare of domestic society and the benefit of all humanity. Owing to the consistent amount of literature we have used and the duration of time our signs were in the park, our vigil might well represent the First Amendment status-quo in this country. In that sense it might be said that we've symbolized what made America great

Although our vigil has not won any honorable mention from the federal government, many other people, from all over the world have understood our message, and the importance of our ability to communicate it. The National Park Service has routinely issued permits allowing our vigils, and the government cannot suggest that we have ever engaged in any harmful activity in the Park.

The current situation is simple. Lafayette Park is the premier public forum for free expression on the planet. Suddenly, the NPS has felt compelled to promulgate yet another regulation to curtail public expression. Federal Register, Vol. 57, No. 25, pg. 4574, February 6, 1992.

NPS claims that "(d)emonstrators remain free to utilize Lafayette Park to ... hold vigils and otherwise communicate their views." In fact, under this regulation we would be forced to choose between having literature, or enough insulation to stay alive.

There are two possible motives behind this rulemaking.

First, as NPS claims, it must limit demonstrators to three (3) cubic feet of property in the "public interest." Yet, after soliciting public comment, the Park Service received one petition with well over 3,000 signatures and fifty-one letters concerning the proposed rule. Only three letters supported it. With public comment running over 1,000 to 1 against their regulation, how is it possible for the DOI to believe that it has any legitimate public interest?


At best the National Park Service is ignoring "public comment;" at worst it has run amuck.

"But," one might ask, "what earthly reason would an administrative agency in a freedom loving democracy like the United States possibly have for making '? regulatory attempt to negate constitutionally protected rights under the guise of protecting aesthetics?'"

Well, imagine that the President of the United States, as commander-in-chief of the police/armed forces, was promoting a concept of "peace through Strength," in diametric opposition to the concept of "Peace through Reason." Might not the continuous presence of a group advocating "Peace through Reason," right in front of the President's house, constitute a situation which the President might wish to see removed,

Some of the Federal Register's public comment pointed out that the regulation was unnecessary by virtue of the fact that current NPS regulations already limit the storage of property in Lafayette Park. Ironically this regulation comes quickly on the heels of President Bush's recent call for a 90 day moratorium on new federal regulations.

But it is more ironic that Mr. Robbins, who officially supervised what he calls the increased police enforcement efforts during the Persian Gulf War had the audacity to cite this police misconduct as evidence of the necessity for this new regulation. It is also noteworthy that President Bush was personally aware of this questionable enforcement.

With the onset of hostilities in the Persian Gulf, along with hundreds of other people, Concepcion, Ellen and myself, began to demonstrate with prayer drums. It was an extremely effective method of communication, which caused no harm.

On January 25, 1991 President Bush publicly stated, "Those damned drums are keeping me awake." However, on February 5, 1991, the President made statements about 60 decibels and "those incessant drummers," which indicated his personal awareness of the situation, but he recharacterized his "damned drums" statement as "hyperbole," admitting that he couldn't even hear the drums.

Well over a hundred people were arrested for allegedly violating "60 decibels" in a city scope where the normal background noise level never dips below 62 decibels. Personally, I was arrested three times for playing drums which the president couldn't hear. Notwithstanding Mr. Robbins' supervision of these arrests, the charges were quickly thrown out of court but the arrests did disrupt and discourage peaceful expression.

Ultimately, on February 2 and 3, 1991, Mr. Robbins and other agents, under color of the existing storage of property regulations, seized our lawful signs and literature and incarcerated Concepcion and I. These charges were also swiftly thrown out of court.

So, we believe, 1) orchestrated enforcement of Interior Department regulations inhibits the free flow of ideas and information in violation of the First Amendment; 2) we have been subjected to a pattern and practice of malicious harassment, 3) various agency personnel, and possibly the President himself, conspired to extinguish constitutional and statutory rights.

Of course one regulation might not a conspiracy make, hut our "24 hour vigil, has also been the target of three earlier regulations, each of which was drafted by Richard Robbins. SEE, Fed. Reg., Vol. 47 No.103 pg. 24299; Vol. 48 No. 118 pg. 28059; Vol. 50 No. 161 pg. 33571; Vol. 51 No. 43 pg. 7555.

Under color of these very regulations law enforcement officials have sustained an almost constant conflict against us arising from our exercise of First Amendment rights. This conflict has, been waged under color of several regulations, and threats, harassment, assaults, and imprisonment. As a result our signs, literature, and other expressive articles being seized and/or destroyed, and our expressive activities being disrupted and suppressed.

Two of these regulations have withstood judicial review. Clark v. CCNV, 468 U.S. 290, White House Vigil for the ERA v. Clark 746 F.2d 1518. But the question of whether these regulations have been selectively enforced to punish First Amendment exercise has never been heard by a court.

The "camping regulation" (Clark v. CCNV) is a good example of how this selective enforcement may have escaped judicial notice. In the beginning the Park Service purported a clear regulatory policy which would allow for "one's participation in a demonstration as a sleeper." CCNV v. Watt, 703 F.2d 586 at 589.

During January and February, 1991 -- at the same time Park Police agents began seizing and attempting to seize our signs and literature, under the supervision of Mr. Robbins -- another section of the Park Police, also under direct supervision of Richard Robbins, began dictating a definition of "camping" which changed at least four times in one month.

The videotape submitted with this statement documents that Park Police Sgt. Rule agreed, "24-hour vigils are permitted, there's no question about that," but also discussed enforcement of the "camping" regulation with Mr. Robbins. Subsequent to those discussions, between February 3 and March 7, 1991, Sgt. Rule progressively and arbitrarily defined "camping" as: "sleeping for longer than two (2) hours" "sleeping longer than one (1) hour," and finally that merely sitting on a blanket would be "cause" for a "camping, arrest. The videotape also indicates that the arresting officer did not want to make the arrest, but was only following orders, and that the officer also characterized the situation as being "just a game. (A)11 they wanted was to get people out of" the park.

I have DOT/Park Police documents and District Court transcripts which conclusively show that, 3 few years earlier in 1988, Mr. Robbins perjured himself in testimony that sent me to federal prison for purportedly violating the "camping regulation".

Thus we believe , the object of the government's "game" was to remove our persons from a traditional public forum because of opposition to the content of their message. Through a concerted effort, the government achieved its object by justifying a pattern and practice of harassment, detention, and intimidation.

I could present numerous other examples of questionable "law enforcement" operations, but, the four page limit for this submission allows only one more.

"In a memorandum, dated 13 January 1983, then Secretary of the Interior James Watt to an aide, Moody Tidwell, Watt Requested 'a briefing on the regulations that allow demonstrations and protesters in Lafayette Park and in front of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. My intention is to prohibit such activities and require that they take place on the Ellipse.' In March 1983 Watt received a briefing from the principal drafter of the new regulations and told him To 'keep up the good work'....In the circumstances, it would appear that plaintiff's claim in this regard in no wise can be characterized ass frivolous, however, in light of this court's disposition of this case, it need not resolve this particular issue." White House Vigil v. Clark, 746 F.2d 1518, 1527, and Exhibit 11.

On March 11, 1983, very shortly after he met with Mr. Watt, Mr. Robbins, "the principal drafter", kept up the good work" by participating in a prearranged scheme--in concert with agents of the U.S. Park Police, U.S. Secret Service, and D.C. Metropolitan Police--to remove Concepcion's and my then-legitimate signs from the White House sidewalk--even though no regulation justified the action.

Government agents did persecute me--through arrest and inaccurate testimony--which ended in a criminal conviction. In that case, thank God, justice finally prevailed, when the District of Columbia vindicated me:

"the ultimate issue in the present case is the actor's subjective state of mind." Thomas, supra 557 A.2d at 1300.

With my vindication a reasonable person must ask,"What was the 'subjective state of mind' motivating the government agents on March 11, 1983?" Obviously, I wanted the signs on the White House sidewalk; they specifically intended to take the signs off the sidewalk. Were Mr. Robbins, and agents of the Park Police, Secret Service, Metropolitan Police, et al, performing as thugs?

If you think there are problems in Tiannanmen Square, but you do not measure Lafayette Square with the same yardstick, you have not succeeded in removing the beam from your eye.