On or about April 16, 1999, and again on April 21, 1999 I received a National Park Service NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC which announced that large sections of Lafayette Park would be completely closed to the public from 12 noon, April 23rd until 6 p.m. April 25th.

Included in the area slated for closure is the location at which I have regularly been demonstrating since 1983, when demonstrations were limited on the White House sidewalk.

While it is true that, in recent years, security forces have, with ever increasing frequency, closed sections of the park during White House visits from foreign heads of state, this is only the second time that the location in which I regularly demonstrate has been included in the areas closed. The other occasion was during the first park closure of this nature, the 1987 visit by Mikhail Gorbachev. However there are two significant changes between this closure and the Gorbachev closure; first, in 1987 the areas were only closed for short periods when Mr. Gorbachev was actually traveling on the 1600 block of Pennsylvania, and second, during those closures the District Court ordered that I be permitted to leave my signs in the closed area.

I have an important and timely message to deliver to the NATO heads of state. If I am forced to remove my signs from the area in which I usually display signs, I will be unable to communicate my message to my intended audience.

Moreover, according to the aforementioned NOTICES TO THE PUBLIC, it appears that this closure is illegal, in that it fails to comply with the requirements set out in the Code of Federal Regulations, e.g.:

"Except in emergency situations a closure, designation, use or activity restriction or condition ... which is of a nature, magnitude and duration that will result in a significant alteration in the public use pattern of the park area .... shall be published as rulemaking in the Federal Register." 36 CFR §1.5 (3)(b).

In light of the fact that the security forces responsible for ordering that these sections of the Park to be closed have been involved in planning for this NATO event for months, I don't believe that this closure can qualify as an "emergency situation." Had the Park Service fulfilled the requirements of 36 CFR §1.5 (3)(b) I would have had sufficient time to prepare and file a legal challenge to this unprecedented closure action. Consequently, I believe that since the closure of these Park areas is illegal, and particularly in light of the District court's 1987 decision, I do not believe that I can be legally ordered to leave these areas.

In light of current NATO actions, the message I seek to deliver is timely and addresses matters of life and death. Because I do not concede that even the executive branch of the government may arbitrarily take actions which would have the effect of transforming Lafayette Park into something more akin to Tiananmen or Red Squares, if only to stand up for freedom, I feel compelled to remain here.

W. Thomas, 4/23/99