Letter from William Thomas

William Thomas
P.O. Box 27217
Washington, D.C. 20038

October 11, 1996

Assistant Solicitors Richard Robbins
and Randolph Myers
Department of Fish and Wildlife
Department of Interior
D Street NW
Washington, DC

Dear Messrs. Robbins and Myers,

Warmest greetings.

As you know together with Ellen Thomas I have been maintaining what we call the Peace Park Anti-Nuclear Vigil, with signs, in Lafayette Park for a number of years now. As you probably also have figured out (see, "Troublemakers," Washingtonian, February, 1996) I feel you have successfully portrayed my vigil as a pretext for a regulatory cycle which the Circuit Court initially recognized as "bad law" (see, Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Watt, 730 F.2d 600, 605 J. Ginsburg, J. Edwards' concurring, see also, id., 601, J. Mikva), and which appears to be mutating itself through the never-ending reinterpretation of your regulatory craftsmanship.

As you may recall, you wrote a "Notice," which you caused to be hand delivered to our vigil site on October 11, 1995. Your Notice purtorted, "the United States District Court confirmed that (as then configured our) signs violate Park Service regulations.... Thomas v. United States, No. 94-2747 (August 23, 1995)."

We draw your attention to the District Court's order in Thomas v. United States, No. 95- 1018, (August 31, 1995), which states, in pertinent part (pg.. 16) that I am, " not prohibited from displaying (my) sign AND SEAT STRUCTURE there, or from relaying (my) message in any manner in Lafayette Park ." Emphasis added, although, with all due respect, it seems pettily misleading to refer to my sign as anything but a sign.

Because the District Court opinion on which we rely (August 31, 1995) is more recent than the District Court opinion on which you rely (August 23, 1995), in our opinion the signs as then configured did not violate Park Service regulations .

Nonetheless, tired of wasting our lives trying to sift factual reality through the smoke and mirrors of your counsel's pleadings, within days of receiving Mr. Robbins' Notice of October 11, 1995, rather than violate his dictate, we decided to allow the judicial process to run its course (see, Thomas v. United States, USApp. No. 95-5340), and concentrate instead on the issue of nuclear weapons conversion. Therefore we did indeed alter the sign configuration to conform -- as we understood Mr. Robbins' idea of conformity in relation to the demands of factual reality -- within Park Service regulations' public safety concerns, and the materials available to us.

After altering the configuration of our signs, in October, 1995, we continued our vigil activities with no police complaint, or further Notice from you, with respect to regulatory conformance of the structural support system of our signs. On numerous occasions we have been assured by different Park Police officers that our signs and demonstration were in compliance, and officers have used our demonstration as an example of compliance for other demonstrators. Thus, for exactly one year now, we have had reason to believe that our demonstration sites embody the status quo of compliance with all applicable Park Service regulations as regards signs and continuous vigils.

Yet, mid-morning, Thursday, October 11, 1996, Ellen was sitting at the exact same sign/support configuration system which she has been attending everyday since October, 1995 without incident or complaint, when she was accosted by a Park Police officer who told that her sign was in violation, and that unless she brought it into compliance enforcement action would be taken. After Ellen told this officer that he was mistaken, that she had obeyed Mr. Robbins' instructions and conformed to his requirements, the officer shifted his attention and said, "Well, then, just don't go to sleep or walk away from your signs. Tell your associates." He drove away.

Additionally, Concepcion Picciotto, with whom I maintain the White House Peace Vigil, paints what she calls "Peace Rocks." A couple of hours after Ellen had been harassed by the Park Police agent regarding the sign, another Park Police agent who identified himself as"Kacik" approached Concepcion Picciotto and informed her that the small tubes of acrylic artist's paints and small artist's brushes violate some provision of the Code of Federal Regulations. We all have observed others painting canvases with similar artist's paints and brushes in Lafayette Park without complaint. Police have seen Concepcion paint peace rocks for years, without complaint.

Since Mr. Myers writes exhibits to support legal pleadings with respect to the "official" interpretation of regulations governing demonstrations in Lafayette Park, and since Mr. Robbins' Notice of October 11, 1995 explicitly assumed the authority to direct "appropriate enforcement action," we make two requests:
First, confirm that Concepcion's artist's paints and brushes do not violate the regulations, and instruct the Park Police that it is inappropriate to harass her for possessing those articles.

Second, confirm that our signs are "not prohibited" by the regulations, and kindly ask the police to stop pestering us (as it chills the exercise of our efforts to coax the country to sanity), or explain exactly how our signs fail to conform to the regulations.

In service to peace through understanding,

W. Thomas