Peggy Jones, who just completed her junior year a college located in the Midwest, is the leader of a national organization known as "Students Against Homelessness". At the end of the Spring semester for 1986, the members of this group decided to travel to Washington, D. C. in order to stage a three month-long demonstration in Lafayette Park to protest homelessness in the United States. The group chose this location because it wanted to attempt to influence the President of the United States to propose legislation that will provide funds to ensure that homelessness is eradicated in this country. Lafayette Park is directly across the street from the White House and the demonstrators would easily be seen from there.

Jones and the members of this group demonstrated in Lafayette Park for the months of June and July of 1986 by erecting and sleeping in shanties there and carrying placards that said "End Homelessness in the U.S.A. Now". The members of the group chose sleeping in the Park as a part of the protest in order to re-enact what they feel is the central reality of homelessness.

As a result, Jones and her fellow protesters were arrested on August 1, 1986 for violating a statute enacted by Congress that prohibits camping in Lafayette Park. The statute provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Camping is defined as the use of park land for living accommodation purposes such as sleeping activities, or making preparations to sleep (including the laying down of bedding for the purpose of sleeping), of storing personal belongings, or making any fire, or using any tents or shelter or other structure or vehicle for sleeping or doing any digging or earth- breaking or carrying on cooking activities. The above-listed activities constitute camping when it reasonably appears, in light of all the circumstances, that the participants, in conducting these activities, are in fact using the area as a living accommodation, regardless of the intent of the participants or the nature of any other activities in which they may also be engaging. Violations of this section are punishable by a term of six months' imprisonment and a fine of five hundred dollars.

Lafayette Park had originally been a part of the White House grounds. President Thomas Jefferson set it aside as a park for the use of residents and visitors. The legislative history of the statute prohibiting camping there reveals that, in keeping with Jefferson's intent, Congress wanted to preserve the beauty of Lafayette Park for the American people and for visitors from around the world.

The circumstances surrounding Jones' arrest on August 1, 1986 were as follows: In patrolling Lafayette Park for the two month period during which the demonstrations took place, the police department issued several written and oral warnings to Jones and the members of her group, informing them that camping in the park was in violation of the law. The police repeatedly asked the protesters to remove all living accommodations from the park, but compliance with these requests was not forthcoming.

As a result, the police held meetings on July 26 and 28, 1986, in order to map out a plan of action to deal with the situation. The decision arrived at as a result of these meetings was to sweep the park in a raid on the evening of August 1, 1986, arrest all of the protesters, seize their personal effects for evidentiary purposes and demolish and cart away all of the;shanties that had been erected.

At 9:00 p.m. on August 1, 1986, the police carried out their plan as scheduled. At approximately 9:10 p. m., the police burst through the closed door of Jones' shanty. They placed Jones under arrest and gathered all of the personal property located in the shanty, including a toothbrush, a comb, a sleeping bag, several items of clothing and foodstuffs.

The shanty was then demolished by a bulldozer.

AMENDMENT 1 [1791]

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press: or the right of the people peaceably to assemble. and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Legal Cases | Peace Park
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