MS. THOMAS: The video that I would like you to see,
because, during the four years that I have been engaged in
this unique and fascinating experience, I've learned a great deal
about history, about people, about Washington, D. C. I have collected
a lot of information which has gone into this video tape and a
lot of photographs that I or friends of mine have taken over the
years that stretch all the way back to 1917, showing that what
we are doing is something that has been done in front of the White
House, in Lafayette Park, for 70 years. We are not newcomers;
we're vigilers, and we're just the latest in a long line of people
who are doing what we are doing, and always in the past people
have been protected. Stacey Abney was protected. The Quaker vigil
was protected. The suffragettes in 1917 were protected.
THE COURT: Do you realize what Miss Robinson has
told the court about your activity there? She says your commitment
to the vigil appears sincere and steadfast.
MS. THOMAS: Yes, she was very nice.
THE COURT: Well, the court doesn't quarrel with
MS. THOMAS: Now I didn't get on the stand during
our trial for a number of reasons, but there are some things that
I would like to make very clear to your Honor. As you recall,
during the trial, the police officer made it clear that I was
not asleep. It was 32 degrees outside the night that he issued
the citation, and I also would like to
mention that when my husband spoke of not being arrested, that's
true. We have received citations during two periods, during the
last year and a half, once in December of 1986 and once in March
of 1987, where there were a series of events where the Park Police
would, and we were told in some instances under order, or suggestion
from other people, would start rummaging through what we had on
signs and would come by, and if we were lying down instead of
standing up and wrapped up against the cold, they would tell us
we were camping.
Now, I tried, honest to God, after you convicted us last
December 15th, I tried to go out there to the park in my regular
nightly vigil. That's what I've committed myself to. I'm very,
very busy with a lot of activities, but I have committed myself
to being there every night that I possibly can, and as many days
as I possibly can, and I tried to get through the night with simply
the clothes that I had on and one blanket, and I froze. The first
week that I was participating in this vigil back in 1984, which
was a cold week in April, and it was raining, I got wet and I
got hypothermia, and it was a very frightening experience, and
told myself at that time that I will not freeze for anybody.
Now, I don't have anything with me in the park that I'm
not using. I do not store anything that I'm not using. In the
morning, I take whatever I needed the night before to
keep warm out of the park. Just recently, I had what I used
to wrap myself up in stolen from me because I stashed it in an
alley. It's sort of a Catch-22: If I keep it in the park, the
police take it away from me, and if I stash it in an alley, the
security guards or another person who needs blankets will take
it away. But I've attempted to comply. It's a very uncomfortable
thing when somebody has taken what you need to survive away from
I think that it is lacking in understanding and compassion
on the part of the people who are trying to paint us as criminals.
We do no harm to the park. We do no harm to any living soul. There
are a great many people who come through Lafayette Park. You can
see a -- I can provide you with, I'd be happy to provide you with
a copy of an article that was put into the Administrative Record
for the new rules in Lafayette Park, which restricted the size
of the signs. The article was in 1978; talking about homeless
people sleeping on the park benches. In my experience, homeless
people sleeping on park benches do not get arrested. It's simply
the demonstrators who get arrested, now, and most of the time
we don't, most of the time we're left alone. Most of the time,
most of the police officers are very nice to us. It's just when
there seems to be a push on for some reason.
I've also observed a pattern of behavior on the part of
police officers toward newcomers, a pattern of harassment,
a practice of threats, threatening arrests, sometimes even
becoming very unkind and cruel to people. I've seen police officers
kick homeless people who are asleep under a tree. I've seen homeless
people carted off to mental institutions. I think that not only
are we standing on the front lines in regards to communicating
the very, very dire need to eliminate nuclear weapons, but we're
also standing on the front lines to communicate that our society
is lacking in compassion.
We are articulate people. We're capable of defending ourselves,
of speaking for ourselves, but there are very, very many people
who come through Lafayette Park or to Lafayette Park who are not
only incapable of articulating their problems and their needs,
but they are incapable of figuring out how to survive, and they're
frightened of institutions, probably because they've seen too
many of them. We try, as my husband says, through counseling and
through very practical solutions, helping find somebody a shelter,
helping them find clothes, helping them get blankets, helping
them eat, helping them get medical treatment. I feel like what
we're doing is, we serve as a clinic. We serve as a mission. I
think if you put us in jail, you're going to do a lot of harm
to a lot more people than just us, and I think if you put us in
jail, it's going to prove our point that this system really must
THE COURT: In what respect?
MS. THOMAS: In the respect of what our priorities
are as human beings. We all are human beings, no matter what robes
THE COURT: All right, anything else?
MS. THOMAS: May I consult with my best friend and
THE COURT: Surely.
MS. THOMAS: Okay, two messages. One is, I need to
complete my sentence about the tape. I really would appreciate
it if you would see my video tape. I was up all night last night
finishing it, and I think it will give you -- most judges who
hear the cases, almost every case, can only sift through facts
that are given in a very structured, restricted manner. Very seldom
are you able to walk out the doors and go to the scene of the
so-called crime and figure out what really happened. I have made
this video tape with live footage, with photographs, with documents.
I have made this so that Your Honor can have a truly educated
opinion and make your determination on the basis of a little bit
better understanding, at least as I see it.
The second thing is that we filed with Your Honor after
the trial a copy of a permit that we received and a
copy of the application for permit that we filed with the National
Park Service as a result of Richard Robins' testimony in this
trial. Now, we've been trying to get Mr. Robbins to give us these
kinds of answers for a long time, and, in fact, I wrote to him
and sent him a copy of our application the same day that it was
sent to the National Park Service, thanking him for being honest.
And there has been some challenge to the authenticity of the permit,
and we have here Mr. Rick Merryman, who is here. He was the person
who signed the permit, and he can testify to its authenticity,
and I would ask Your Honor if you could listen to what he has
And I would ask if perhaps you can listen to all of what
we have to say, but please delay your judgment on sentencing until
after you have looked at the video tape and considered, seriously
considered, what we all have to say.
THE COURT: All right.
MS. THOMAS: I also would like to say that if Your
Honor chooses to sentence me to community service, I will be pleased
to continue to do community service, and if I'm doing it for the
court, I'm also doing it anyway, and if I have to tack on an extra
day or two, I will do it. I'm pretty exhausted already, but Ill
do what I need to do.
THE COURT: Thank you.
MS. THOMAS: Thank you.
Case Listing --- Proposition
One ---- Peace Park