Letter to William Thomas
United States Department of the Interior
November 19, 1996
OFFICE OF THE SOLICITOR
Washington, D.C. 20240
Mr. William Thomas
P.O. Box 27217
Washington, D.C. 20038
Dear Mr. Thomas:
This responds to your letter dated October 11, 1996, regarding whether conduct at your wife and Ms. Concepcion Picciotto's demonstrations on October 10, 1996, violated Park Service regulations. After review, it appears that violations of Park Service regulations did occur at both sites. As such, we ask that the National Park Service regulations be properly observed at these sites.
We understand that when Park Police officers were patrolling Lafayette Park on October 10, 1996, they observed that no one was present at Ms. Picciotto's demonstration site. As you know, Park Service regulations found at 36 C.F.R. 7.96(g)(5)(x)(B)(2), require that a person must be within three feet of such demonstration signs at all times. This "attended sign" regulation has been held to fully comport with the requirements of the First Amendment. United States v. Musser, 873 F.2d 1513 (D.C. Cir.) cert. denied 494 U.S. 983 (1989).
We also understand that on October 10, 1996, Park Police officers observed stored material substantially in excess of three cubic feet at the demonstration sites of both Ms. Thomas and Ms. Picciotto. This was again confirmed by our office on October 30, when the enclosed photographs were taken of both sites. These photographs depict the excess stored material. Park Service regulations found at 36 C.F.R. 7·96(j), prohibit the storage of more than three cubic feet of material in Lafayette Park. This storage regulation has been held to fully comport with the requirements of the First Amendment. Thomas v. Lujan, 791 F. Supp. 321 (1991), summary aff'd, 1993 U.S. APP. LEXIS 4902 (per curium)(D.C. Cir. January 29, 1993), reh's and reh'a en banc denied (D.C. Cir. March 23, 1993).
We understand your position--and continued litigation--that a platform attached to a stationary sign does not violate Park Service regulations. As we indicated to you on January 20, 1995, February 23, 1995 and October 11, 1995, we believe that a platform construction such as you utilized violates Park Service's regulations, found at 36 C.F.R. 7.96(g)(5)(B)(2). This regulation allows such signs to use only braces "that are reasonable required to meet support and safety requirements." The
United States District Court has confirmed that your platform construction violated Park Service regulations. Thomas v. United States, No. 94-2747 (D.D.C. August 25, 1995) No. 95-5340 Renewed Motion for Summary Affirmance filed October 23, 1996 (D.C. Cir.).
It also appears that one of Ms. Thomas' signs violated Park Service regulations regarding structures in Lafayette Park, as depicted in the enclosed photographs taken on October 30. This regulation, found at 36 C.F.R. 9 7.96(g)(5)(x)(A)(4), prohibits (with certain exceptions not applicable here) structures in Lafayette Park such as crates and boxes. As you will note from the photograph, Ms. Thomas is sitting on a box which is covered by a blanket. It appears that this is the box which the Park Police officers observed on October 10. 1996. The officers initially believed to be improperly affixed to the sign. However, it appears that, while the box was not improperly affixed to the sign, the box does violate the structure regulations.
In conclusion, we believe that these regulations provide fair notice to you of what is prohibited in the park. Further the Park Service has not wielded a heavy hand in enforcing the regulations. You have litigated these matters in the past. The court has consistently upheld the National Park Service regulations. We will in the future expect you to conform your activities to these rules. Your cooperation in observing these rules would be greatly appreciated.
Richard G. Robbins
National Capital Parks