Letter from William Thomas
October 11, 1996
P.O. Box 27217
Washington, D.C. 20038
Assistant Solicitors Richard Robbins
Dear Messrs. Robbins and Myers,
and Randolph Myers
Department of Fish and Wildlife
Department of Interior
D Street NW
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:
In service to peace through understanding,
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.