U.S. Park Police, National Capitol Region
1100 Ohio Drive S.W.,
Washington, D. C. 20242
U.S. Secret Service
ATTN: Information Quality Officer, Suite 7800
950 H Street NW
Washington, DC 20223
I am writing this letter to express my disappointment and disgust with Park Service / United States Park Police (USPP) / Secret Service (SS) actions, and to request (1) a written apology, and (2) assurance that there will never again be a repeat of what I consider to be the outrageously unlawful conduct (see, footnote1) displayed, most likely at the bidding of his superiors, by USPP Sgt. White, et. al., on January 19th, 2005, which kept us away from the park on the 20 th.
As briefly as possible, I will attempt to explain: (1) why I consider that you, collectively, have behaved (hopefully not incorrigibly) as dishonest, irrational hypocrites, (2) a historical context to this ever-expanding trampling of public expression, and (3) a chronicle of the events on January 19th, which I believe to be constitutionally seditious.
(1) To explain why I characterize the actions of your agencies and/or agents as outrageously hypocritical, allow me to refer you to a statement made by Dr. Condoleeza Rice at her Senate confirmation hearing (January 18, 2005):
Having been bombarded with a barrage of speeches, press conferences, and congressional hearings extolling your "brave" fighting forces for purportedly exporting "freedom" and "democracy" (and capitalism) to Iraq, while officers and officials are treading on those very ideals (except for capitalism) here in the US, alarms me. Thus, in light of Rice's "Sharansky ... town square test," I allege, your actions have illustrated that the United States is indeed a "fear society." Which is one reason why I'm accusing you of illegal, irrational, irresponsible hypocrisy ... not to mention arbitrary and capricious behavior. See, Footnote.
(2) As to the historical context of this situation:
(A) Since 1981 Concepcion Picciotto and I have maintained a round-the-clock vigil in Lafayette Park. Unless I'm mistaken, for the first two hundred plus years of this country's existence the idea of closing even a portion of Lafayette Park-long held by federal courts to be "a unique forum for public expression"-was unthinkable. However, in December 1987, on the occasion of Mikhail Gorbachev's first visit to the White House, your agencies set a precedent by deciding to close a limited area of the south section of the Park adjoining Pennsylvania Avenue. I felt that this action was an outstanding expression of paranoia by your agencies. Therefore, I filed a motion in the US District Court for a restraining order against your proposed closure.
At that time I argued that if your agencies were permitted to implement this then-unprecedented assault on freedom of expression, your agencies would continue to press the envelope until anything you wanted to do would be deemed acceptable. I said it would be "like letting the camel get his nose into the tent, and if the Court let (you) get away with it, (you) would just keep pushing and sneaking further and further into the tent."
On the other hand Secret Service (SS) agent Steven J. Harrison and USPP Deputy Chief Robert O. Langston testified about their-history shows-groundless fears concerning "security." The US Attorney argued that this was an extraordinary situation; the small section of the Park would only be closed for a very brief time while Gorbachev entered and exited the White House, and - quite erroneously, history shows - this would probably never happen again.
In his questionable wisdom District Court Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer tried to strike a balance. In an Order dated December 9, 1987, Judge Oberdorfer held:
While heartily disagreeing with Judge Oberdorfer's requirement that we personally vacate the park while the police protected our signs, we considered Judge Oberdorfer's opinion to be at least a binding legal precedent regarding the protection of the continuous placement of our signs, i.e., even if we are required to involuntarily leave, our signs may remain.
As illustrated by your agencies' continued pressing of the envelope, and the increasingly irrational "fear state" mentality of your agencies, I think history verifies the validity of my "nose of the camel" analogy, and the vacuous US Attorney's argument that this would probably never happen again, See, http://prop1.org/legal/990423.closure/tyranny.htm. For just a few examples:
To my mind the absurdity of this Notice was illustrated by the fact that never in the entire history of this nation-which, in my opinion, is great only to the degree that it is free-has a police agency been permitted to close a portion of a federal park in prior restraint of expression because of a public demonstration (see, Sharansky test, a la Condoleeza Rice, above).
To my mind, adding insult to this absurd injury to freedom of expression, your agencies offered to allow us to join the Shalom International demonstration, but forbade us from the area allocated to the Knights of Freedom Nationalist Party, and, for the first time in the 18 years we had then been vigiling in front of the White House, forced us to move our signs because of another demonstration, in spite of Judge Oberdorfer's long-standing Order. Ibid.
In Court before Judge Henry H. Kennedy I argued that the position of your agencies was paranoid and ill informed. I explained why the Knights of Freedom were not likely to muster more than a dozen demonstrators (http://prop1.org/legal/9902113/990806tro.trans.htm). Admittedly, I overstated their case. The Knights didn't show up at all. On the other hand, had you done just a little research you'd likely have realized that fielding a law enforcement presence (according to Reuters) numbering nearly three thousand overpaid, bored, under-utilized professionals was ... what can I call it ... a stupid waste of taxpayer dollars.
Yet again, your agents succeeded in scaring the Court, which held against us. I was arrested for refusing to succumb to your scare tactic, and my signs were seized. Concepcion and her signs were moved into the Shalom International area. No charges were brought against me, so nothing more ever came of that exercise in stupidity. Except, of course, executive agents succeeded in intensified pushing of the envelope.
As a prelude let me say that the government knew of the Inaugural extravaganza for at least decades in advance, and had begun planning for this particular 2005 event no later than -- and probably long before -- October, 2004. See, Footnote. For weeks in advance of January 19th, Concepcion and I requested from the Park Rangers information concerning plans for the Inauguration related to our demonstration and the official festivities. Honestly, I think the Rangers did their best, explaining that no one had told them anything, but they would let us know as soon as they were told.
Therefore, it was a surprise when, at approximately 7:00 am on the morning of January 19th, USPP officer Cook confronted me at Concepcion's and my demonstration site in Lafayette Park. He told me that I would have to immediately move our signs to the northeastern section of the Park, because the area we were in (immediately south of the Andrew Jackson statue) would be closed to the public from 12 noon.
I told officer Cook that I needed to get a hand truck to move the signs, and that would take some time. I assured him that the signs would be moved by 11:00 am. Officer Cook adamantly insisted that we move the signs more quickly, or he would have our signs seized and carted off. I pointed out that since the section of the park we were in wasn't to be closed until noon, it didn't seem reasonable to insist that I move my signs at 7:00 a.m. Officer Cook replied that he didn't "want to argue semantics." I noted that the difference between 7:00 a.m. and noon wasn't a matter of "semantics," rather merely a matter of time. Officer Cook insisted that I move the signs immediately. At that time Cook was joined by Sgt. White and several other officers. While White listened on behalf of Cook, the rest of the crew just stood around.
I reiterated to Sgt. White that it seemed unreasonable to force me to move the signs at that time, because the area we were in wasn't going to be closed until noon. Sgt. White backed Officer Cook, insisting that I move the signs immediately.
At this point it is not possible for me to determine whether Sgt. White was acting in his official capacity, as a fascist, or his personal capacity, as a mindless buffoon. In either event, I maintain, particularly in light of his later actions, he was way over the wrong side of the line of decency, civilization, and logic. I realize that "fascist" might sound a bit extreme, so let me try to define my terms. To quote Benito Mussolini, "Fascism would be better defined as corporatism." While it is true that some historians may question the context of this quote, the gist is apparently accurate. See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporatism#Historical_meaning_of_the_term , see also, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporatism , see also, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporatism#Other_European_connotations_of_corporatism
Understand, I did not call Sgt. White a fascist, at this point. I simply offer the information hoping you will educate yourselves, and if you've got a shred of decency, even ask yourselves, "Gee, was that coronation a corporate extravaganza, or what?" See, just for laughs, Attachment 2
Being the nice guy I am, I asked Sgt. White whether it would be acceptable if I moved the signs to west of the Kosciusko statue in the northeast quadrant of the Park. Sgt. White said that would be acceptable. Considerably inconveniencing some friends, I made arrangements to obtain their help quickly. The signs were moved near the Kosciusko statue before 9:00 a.m.
At, or about 4pm on the 19th Sgt. White and his squad approached our signs at the Kosciusko statue. I wasn't present at that time, so this gang started intimidating Concepcion, saying that she had only half an hour to remove the signs from the park, or they would confiscate the signs and throw them away. Concepcion reached me by phone and, sounding nearly hysterical, told me what these "law enforcement officials" allegedly had told her. She said she was very scared because they had been "so aggressive." Naively, I told Concepcion not to worry, I was sure she had misunderstood the police, but I would quickly return to the signs, and was sure we could work things out.
Before returning to the signs I tried to contact a superior officer at Park Police headquarters. I was informed that all supervisory personnel were on the street, but the officer I spoke to said he would contact someone and that that person would call me back. After I arrived at the signs my wife, Ellen, informed me by phone that the Park Police had told her Sgt. White was going to provide me with a "Court Order" legitimizing the removal of our signs from the Park. Based on my experience dealing with similar matters in the Courts, I had a hard time believing that he was going to come up with a Court Order. Ellen also told me that the Park Police had given her a number to call a superior regarding this situation.
While I was on the phone with Ellen, Sgt. White and his posse arrived on the scene. With no adieu, Sgt. White informed me that if I didn't remove the signs from the fenced area within 30 minutes, the signs would be confiscated.
I called the USPP contact number and was routed to USPP Sgt. Michael Keenan.
Sgt. Keenan happens to be one of the sanest and most reasonable Park Police officers I've met.
When I spoke with Sgt. Keenan, he had apparently just been advised of the situation, and seemed genuinely surprised. "You've always been allowed to stay in the Park during inaugurations before, haven't you?" I told him that was correct, but I'd heard a rumor that White had some kind of court order, except he hadn't shown me anything. Sgt. Keenan mentioned that once Sgt. White made up his mind about something it was hard to get him to change it. But the good Sgt. Keenan offered to try, and asked to speak with Sgt. White.
I offered Sgt. White the phone, explaining that someone wanted to talk to him. Sgt. White adamantly refused to accept the phone. Into the phone I said, "Well thanks, Sgt. Keenan, but this jerk refuses to talk to you." Whereupon a couple of White's subordinates started saying, "He's talking to Keenan. That's Keenan." To which White replied, "Tell him I'll call him back."
"He's on the phone," I said, extending the phone, "Why don't you just talk to him?" "I'll call him back," White insisted. He then immediately borrowed a phone from one of his posse members and called Keenan. Of course, I have no first-hand information concerning their conversation, since White didn't say much to Keenan, but I assume Sgt. Keenan was trying to reason with Sgt. White on our behalf.
After speaking with Sgt. Keenan, Sgt. White, with a simian grin on his face, handed me the supposed court order, which actually was nothing more than a photocopy of a National Park Service "NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC," allegedly signed by someone named "Maria Santo," who-and I'm only guessing-might be some kind of a "White House Liaison." See, Attachment 3. I offer this ex post facto "NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC" as an example of the far-less-than competent operation of the Park Service bureaucracy. To reiterate, Concepcion and I repeatedly requested information about the plans regarding our demonstration. Attachment 3, dated January 18th, I submit, illustrates the honesty of the Rangers in the Park, who claimed they had no knowledge, as well as the incompetence of the Park Service bureaucracy.
Get it? Always in the past, "NOTICE(s) TO THE PUBLIC" have been delivered by Park Rangers a day or more PRIOR to the enactment of the closure. Maybe, just maybe, if you think about it real hard, you can begin to grasp my consternation when Sgt. White handed me this "NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC" -- which happened to be precisely the information Concepcion and I had been seeking for the previous couple of weeks -- AFTER we had already been threatened. After glancing at it, I said, "I was told you had a court order to move our signs. This isn't a court order; it's clearly entitled 'NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC." Why didn't you deliver this to us before the fact?"
Then, honest to God, White, again wearing a smirk, had the audacity to reply, "It's not our job to deliver it to you. It's your job to seek it out." This, it seems, was pure buffoonery. See, Footnote.
Perhaps the fact that "NOTICE(s) TO THE PUBLIC" had always been delivered by Park Rangers PRIOR to the enactment of the closure had something to do with "due process." Perhaps apparently slow-witted Sgt. White was never taught the concept of "due process," or, like any good fascist, he may well have just been following unlawful orders.
In any event, this "NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC" clearly states: "the northeast quadrant of Lafayette Park will be open to the general public." There was even a map illustrating the area that would be open to the public. (Attachment 3, page 2.) Not only were we in that area, but, again, that happens to be the exact site that Sgt. White had directed us to earlier in the morning.
Which brings me to another point of what appears to be, at best, illogical thinking. When I asked why he was insisting that we remove the signs, Sgt. White said that there was going to be a fireworks display, our signs were made of wood, and they wanted, "for your own safety," to insure that we or our signs weren't damaged by residue from the fireworks. I pointed out that the many trees in the park were also made of wood, as were the dozens of house trailers in the park, the hundreds of wooden bleachers, also one of the tremendous reviewing stands, and a good portion of the other tremendous reviewing stand which lined the south side of the police parking lot once known as Pennsylvania Avenue. Additionally, all of those objects were much closer to the fireworks than our signs.
In response Sgt. White simply told me that if I didn't have the signs out of the Park in thirty minutes, he would have them loaded on a truck and thrown away. I noted that he wasn't supposed to throw away confiscated property, but was required to at least take it to the USPP property yard at Brentwood. He insisted he would throw them away.
Obviously, it seemed, I was wrong, Concepcion was apparently correct, and there was no reasoning with this particular individual.
Because it seemed that I was talking to a liar, a moron, or a fascist goon, and with Concepcion becoming more distraught about having her signs and literature stolen, I must admit, I momentarily lost my tongue. Which led Sgt. White to remind me that he hadn't used any profanity in talking to me. I informed him that I had nothing further to say, and advised him to "take it on the hop." He growled that the signs better be gone in 30 minutes, and left.
There are several Metro bus lines that stop at the northeast corner of the Park, so there remained a section of sidewalk that was not within the fenced area and was open to the public. Therefore, we moved the signs into that area. We remained at that location for several hours, until about 7pm a SS officer informed me that they were going to close H St, and we would have to move to K St. So for the third time that day we removed our signs, this time completely, for two days, as we had no desire to set up our signs on K Street, which has no symbolic or practical value for those who wish to communicate with people who come to see the White House.
On February 24, 2005 Vladimir Putin and your Commander-in-Chief held what was billed as a "joint press conference," which, at times, sounded more like a kindergarten debate. True, they did agree that nuclear weapons could be bad things, but said nothing about plans to reduce their overwhelming arsenals. To me, at least, they sounded rather childish as they argued things like whose democracy was more democratic, whose freedom was freer, and whose government was more transparent and responsive to its citizens. Your guy often repeats some phrase; in the case of his recent European trip "rule of law," was, I think, one of his favorite phrases. "Sharansky Test," "Rule of Law." The irony was striking. See, Footnote. You folks are turning this world into such a Kafkaesque parody that it's truly funny.
Notwithstanding your creativity, I'd like an apology, and assurance that this disrespect for people, for legal precedent, the Code of Federal Regulations, and the rule of law won't happen again. (See, Footnote) As an honest-to-God advocate of freedom and a promoter of democracy (unlike many hypocritical politicians I could name), unless you agree to meet my two simple demands I will feel compelled to offer the US District Court an opportunity to redress and punish your behavior. If it comes to that, of course, history illustrates, the cards are stacked in your favor. However, a couple of recent District Court decisions indicate that a scintilla of sanity may still exist within the judicial system. So I say, "Screw it. I'll try the lottery; maybe I'll luck out and wind up with a judge who still retains a modicum of common sense, honest respect for the principles of democracy, and the real rule of law, who will bring you lawless folks to task."
Thanks for your attention,
Inaugural ceremonies. The White House sidewalk and Lafayette Park, exclusive of the northeast quadrant, for the exclusive use of the Inaugual (sic) Committee on Inauguration Day. 36 CFR 7.95 (g)(4)(F)
Except in emergency situations, the public will be informed of closures, designations, and use or activity restrictions or conditions, visiting hours, public use limits, public use limit procedures, and the termination or relaxation of such, in accordance with Sec. 1.7 of this chapter. 36 CFR 1.5,
Whenever the authority of Sec. 1.5(a) is invoked to restrict or control a public use or activity, to relax or revoke an existing restriction or control, to designate all or a portion of a park area as open or closed, or to require a permit to implement a public use limit, the public shall be notified. 36 CFR 1.7 (a)
Concepcion Picciotto, et. al. )
v. ) Civil Action No. 87-3290-LFO
Donald Hodel, et. al. )
to do so by the U.S. Park Police during the period of the notice.
Date: December 9, 1983
(signed) Louis F. Oberdorfer
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
(EXCERPT FROM TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS ON DECEMBER 7, 1987, IN WILLIAM THOMAS, ET AL., VERSUS DONALD HODEL, ET AL., CIVIL ACTION 87-3290)
THE COURT: MR. THOMAS, WILL YOU COME TO THE PODIUM AGAIN, PLEASE.
YOU ARE RIDING BEHIND THE BLOCKING BACK OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT FOR ALL OF THESE YEARS. YOU ARE NOT IN RED SQUARE. YOU ARE IN LAFAYETTE SQUARE. YOU ARE IN UNDER, AND YOU ARE PROTECTED BY, OUR CONSTITUTION AND BY THE FIRST AMENDMENT AND BY THIS COURT. YOU HAVE HAD ENORMOUS PROTECTION, AND YOU ARE GETTING IT TODAY.
YOU HAVE THE CHIEF OF THE SECRET SERVICE DETAIL, THE CHIEF OF THE PARK POLICE, THREE LAWYERS, A COURT, AND A STAFF IN HERE WORRYING AND BEING CONCERNED ABOUT -- AND NOT IMPROPERLY -- YOUR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS. AND THEY ARE BEING PROTECTED IN THE MOST EXQUISITE WAY THAT I CAN CONTRIVE.
NOW I HAVE A REPRESENTATION FROM THE GOVERNMENT THAT THE OFFICERS IN LAFAYETTE PARK IN THE VICINITY WHERE YOU HAVE BEEN, AND WHERE YOUR SIGNS ARE, WILL MAKE THEIR BEST EFFORTS TO SEE THAT THEY ARE PRESERVED INTACT. THAT IS NOT A GUARANTEE. THIS IS IMPORTANT, BUT THAT IS NOT THE ONLY THING THEY HAVE TO DO, AND THAT IS NOT THEIR PRIMARY MISSION, BUT THEY ARE GOING TO TRY. IT REQUIRES YOU TO MAKE THE SAME KIND OF GOOD-FAITH EFFORT TO COMPLY WITH THIS NOTICE. THAT IS, THEY HAVE ASKED
YOU TO TAKE YOUR OTHER BELONGINGS OUT OF THERE, AND IT WOULD BE ENTIRELY INAPPROPRIATE, IN LIGHT OF WHAT IS GOING ON HERE, FOR YOU TO QUIBBLE ABOUT THAT.
WHEN THEY ASK YOU TO MOVE, YOU OUGHT TO MOVE EVERY LOCK, STOCK, AND BARREL, EXCEPT THE SIGNS. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?
MR. THOMAS: THAT IS NO PROBLEM.
THE COURT: AND YOU SHOULD MOVE WHEN THEY ASK YOU TO MOVE, AND DO NOT ARGUE WITH THEM, JUST MOVE.
MR. THOMAS: I'M DOING MY ARGUING HERE.
THE COURT: I UNDERSTAND THAT. THAT IS WHY I AM MAKING THE TIME AVAILABLE TO YOU NOW, SO YOU CAN WORK THAT OUT. IN RELIANCE ON THE REPRESENTATION BY THE UNITED STATES AND ON BEHALF OF THE PARK POLICE AND THE SECRET SERVICE THAT THE OFFICERS ON THE SCENE IN LAFAYETTE PARK WILL BE INSTRUCTED TO USE THEIR BEST EFFORTS TO SAFEGUARD YOUR SIGNS, I AM DENYING YOUR APPLICATION FOR A TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER.
AND THAT IS JUST THE SIGNS OF THE INDIVIDUAL PLAINTIFFS: I CAN'T TAKE CARE OF OTHER PEOPLE. THIS IS NOT A CLASS ACTION. IF THE PARK POLICE WANT TO TAKE CARE OF THEM, THEY CAN. THEY ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO ME TO DO IT.
AND IT IS ALSO MY UNDERSTANDING THAT THERE WILL BE PLANNING ABOUT WHEN YOU HAVE TO MOVE SO THAT IT IS NOT ABRUPT.
MR. THOMAS: AS I STATED AT THE BEGINNING, THERE WERE SOME OTHER INDIVIDUALS.
THE COURT: I UNDERSTAND THAT
MR. THOMAS: (CONTINUING) -- WHO ARE INTERESTED.
THE COURT: MY JURISDICTION IS LIMITED TO CASES AND CONTROVERSIES, AND I CAN ONLY PROTECT THE PLAINTIFFS BEFORE ME.
MR. THOMAS: WELL, SOME OF THE INDIVIDUALS ARE HERE IN COURT
THE COURT: THEY MAY BE, BUT THEY ARE NOT IN COURT ON PAPER. MAYBE YOU CAN WORK THAT OUT WITH WHOEVER THE SECRET SERVICE DETAIL OR THE PARK POLICE DETAIL IS, TO DEAL WITH YOU ON THIS.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE?
MR. THOMAS: I APPRECIATE THE PROCESS THAT HAS GONE ON IN THE COURT, BUT I WOULD POINT OUT THAT IT MAY NOT HAVE BEEN NECESSARY, IF I HAD RECEIVED THE NOTICE PRIOR TO--
THE COURT: I AM SORRY ABOUT THAT. I AM REALLY NOT SORRY ABOUT IT. I THINK THAT THIS HAS BEEN A GOOD EXERCISE, AND I EXPECT IT TO BE HANDLED IN A CORRECT WAY.
MR. THOMAS: THANK YOU.
MR. MARTINEZ: THANK YOU, YOUR HONOR.
(WHEREUPON, AT 5:35 O'CLOCK P.M., THE COURT ADJOURNED THE HEARING.)