United States Department of the Interior
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
WASHINGTON D. C. 20240
Honorable Mark 0. Hatfield
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Hatfield:
Thank you for your letter of January 28 regarding demonstrations occurring in Lafayette Park. We share your concern about demonstration activities that substantially impact upon other park visitors and park resources.
Present regulations allow demonstration activity, including the use of posters and placards, in Lafayette Park. Past attempts to restrict demonstration activities in the White House area have been met by legal challenge in the local Federal courts. The courts consistently have held that the White House area is a unique situs for demonstration activities and have generally not upheld any more than minor restrictions on those activities.
However, recent court decisions would seem to indicate that additional restrictions on demonstration activities might be permissible in the White House area. For example, the Supreme Court recently held that National Park Service court could ban camping in the Washington area parks as a means of preventing destruction of park resources. Community for Creative Nor-Violence v. Clark, 468 U.S.___, 104 S.Ct. 3065, 81 L.Ed.2d ___(1984). In addition, the Court of Appeals for the District of Colombia Circuit recently upheld a panel decision finding restrictions on the use and placement of signs on the White House sidewalk to be constitutional. White House Vigil for the ERA Committee v. Clark, No. 84-5271 D.C. Cir., rehearing en bacc denied January 11, 1985). Attorneys representing the National Park Service are presently considering possible regulatory changes in light of these and other decisions.
We have referred your letter, including your suggestion that demonstrators be required to carry their signs and remove the signs when they depart, to the attorneys working in this area. However, we would note that the majority of the demonstrators now occurring in Lafayette Park are long-term vigils which continue 24 hours a day. When one of the participants of these demonstrations departs the area, another demonstrator takes his or her place in watching the group signs. Therefore, a regulation prohibiting unattended signs would be of limited use in Lafayette Park.
Honorable Hark 0. Hatfield
While our attorney are studying possible regulatory changes, we are attempting, as much as possible under present regulation, to accommodate both visitors and demonstrations. For example, we are closely monitoring the sound levels of demonstrators utilizing amplified sound so as not to allow the sound to unreasonably disturb nonparticipating persons. In addition, we have put the individuals now demonstrating in Lafayette Park on notice that they must comply with regulations and permit conditions prohibiting such activities as storage of property, injury to trees and grass, and construction of signs, or face arrest.
We appreciate your interest in Lafayette Park and your generous efforts to help in improving it.
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