THOMAS: A MAN OF PRINCIPLE
by Joe Tanzi
I'm graduating from A.U. (the American University) on Sunday,
May 18, 1986, 2pm, DAR Constitution Hall, 18th & D Streets.
for Independent Studies Prof. Onuf,
December 4, 1985
Hope to see you there.
My whole family & friends will be there.
Hope you will be there too.
William Thomas, better known as Thomas, and Concepcion
Picciotto have been in and out of court and jail since they began
their 24-Hour Anti-Nuclear Vigil on June 3, 1981. They have been
before a judge several times due to violations of conduct
regarding local protest statutes and Department of Interior (DOI)
regulations, but Thomas and Concepcion's latest battle could be
their last. Not many realize the importance of their latest law
suit against the government.
The law suit deals with two separate issues. Thomas has sued
under the Civil Rights Act Title 42, Section 1983 and Section
1985. Section 1983 protects individuals from being deprived of
their rights or privileges, whether it be due to color,
regulation, custom, tradition or ritual. Section 1985 deals with
the act of conspiracy in attempting to deprive such guaranteed
civil rights (The list of defendants Thomas has charged can be
found in Appendix A.)
Since the first report (written December, 1981) a lot has
transpired, both positive and negative. One individual who
affected Thomas tremendously was Norman Mayer. Thomas viewed
" ...as a clearsighted, committed, dedicated
individual, who did what he could to communicate
his view of reality to his fellow human beings.
Who, it seems to me or seemed to me at the time,
are more concerned with rather mundane and unim
portant issues to give any time to..."
Thomas firmly believes in Norman's 10 Laws of Reality. They
are the key to understanding Thomas' and Norman's philosophy.
(Norman's 10 Laws of Reality can be found in Appendix B.)
Unfortunately, Norman is dead as a result of his threat to
destroy the Washington Monument. He announced that he had
explosives attached to himself and that he would destroy; the monument, if
the press refused to devote at least 50% of their time to
covering the problem of nuclear weapons. A team of Park Police
sharpshooters killed him.
Were the Park Police justified? No, Thomas stated because
there was no proof the explosives did exist, According to Thomas,
Norman did not have any explosives. Asked if Norman's act was an
act of terrorism and if he was permitted to get the attention he
desired would it not encourage other to do the same, thereby
starting "a wave of terrorism?" Thomas replied,
"Norman's 7th Law of Reality said, 'When men are
inconfrontation, they psually do foolish regretable
things. Men with megaton weapons in confrontation
will do foolish regrettable things, finality... Norman
was engineering a teaching situation for the purpose of
illustrating the validity of the 7th Law of Reality."
What really irritated Thomas was that the Park Police
were awarded citations for having shot someone, "... who was no
threat and thereby made a mistake." He believes shooting people
is never justified nor does he believe in threatening
destruction. He believes that Norman thought the same.
"...It was out of character for him, but that it
was strikingly in character for the people that he
was trying to communicate with. The main policy of
this government in regard to the Soviet Union is the
threat to':'blow it up.' It seems to me that Norman
had] stepped out of his normal role as a sane and
rational individual and temporarily assumed the role
of the President and Joint Chiefs of Staff and the
A major disappointment was the manner in which the media
reported the situation. The most comprehensive article was
written by Blane Harding for The Washington Post. Harding spent
several hours over 8 period of several days talking with Thomas
about Norman. Thomas gave him Norman's literature and explained
Norman's philosophy. Thomas referred him to a close friend of
Norman's, Jack Bauer, who resides in Florida, The reporter talked to Bauer,
but when the article was printed both, Thomas and Bauer, were
unhappy. Norman's character and philosophy were not explained.
According to Thomas, the article distorted some of the information. The
article was written strictly from the reporter's simplistic
·view. Thomas summed it up easily, "Here's a wanderer who
suddenly got concerned about nuclear weapons and became extreme
when he felt nobody was taking him seriously."
Why is Norman so important to Thomas? It was not that he
altered Thomas' philosophy. It was the importance of Noman's
meaningful conversations, which according to Thomas, "...is an
experience I am not accustomed to . People don't carry meaningful
conversations in my opinion. I was impressed by Norman as being a
very wise and honest person." Norman is also extremely important
to Thomas because when times are rough, which is often the case,
Thomas thinks of what Norman said. Norman told Thomas as long as
there were nuclear weapons in existence the 24-Hour Vigil should
be in existence. That is the basic idea that is perpetuating The
Another person who inspires Thomas is his wife, Ellen. They
have been married almost two years. They were married by. a
member of the Quaker Marriage Committee. He came to Lafayette
Park. They married themselves by saying their own vows and the
committee representative signed the marriage certificate.
Ellen thinks just like Thomas, according to Thomas. Thomas
and Ellen do not seem to have any problems because they "...seem
to see things the same way." Thomas did say in a confessing tone,
he found it diffichlt treating everyone the same. He has a
tendency to want to be with her than with others. He views this
as a weakness "...a problem with principles." He tries not to side with
her too much.
Unfortunately, Thomas and Concepcion's close working
relationship has deteriorated quite considerably. Thomas does not
even sit near Concepcion's table. Thomas claims, "Concepcion
can't get along with Ellen. I think she can, but she refuses to..
She accuses Ellen of being a C.I.A. agent. She accuses Ellen of
being only interested in publicity."
But Concepcion should be praised for having maintained her
table alone. She should be admired for her tenacity and
fortitude. She feels that Thomas and her have been through so
much abuse since the very beginning, i.e., the police beatings
and arrests. She feels as though Thomas has forgotten what they
both endured. Basically, she feels betrayed.
In the beginning, Thomas and Concepcion were located in
front of the White House on t·he sidewalk. After many encounters
with the police they were told they could no longer stay there 24
hours a day. Instead, they would have to move all their signs and
possessions before night, which they did. They even put their
large signs on wheels to make them easier to transport, but both
were still harassed by police.
Having 'reached his limit,' Thomas set one sign ablaze
because each police unit told him he could not leave it in their
jurisdiction. Their ultimate goal was to confiscate the sign like
they had so many times previously. Rather than the police seizing
it he decided it should be destroyed. Thomas believes a sign is
suppose to communicate a message and if it can not be seen it no
longer has a purpose. Of course, Thomas went to court because of
New regulations were issued about protesting in front of
the White House, regarding fire and distance from the fence. The
Moonies held a demonstration in front of the White House to
protest the Soviet's shooting down the Korean passenger airline.
By burning in effigy the late Soviet Premier Andropov_and their
standing so close to the fence, they violated the new
regulations, but according to Thomas no one was arrested.
The Committee for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV) aided Thomas
by pitching tents across the street in Lafayette Park (a:national
park), but the court ordered them to dismantle the tents since
the Park does not have camping facilities. The tents hadbeen'
used to protect the Vigil's property, house the volunteers and.
Next, Thomas and Concepcion were forced to move across the
street on the Park side of Pennsylvania Avenue. This occurred
on July 19, 1983. They are only permitted to be on the sidewalk.
They are still here to this day, but their days may.soon be
numbered. They could soon be going to jail, if they should lose
the court battle. They do not plan an stopping their 24-Hour
Vigil until their job is done.
There is no sleeping whatsoever, because that is considered to
be 'camping.' They can be arrested for taking 'naps.' An
interesting fact which Thomas cited was the 24-Hour Vietnam
Missing In Action (MIA) Vigil. It has been in existence since
Christmas, 1982. It is operated by war veterans who are
attempting to get as much support as possible for the search of
Vietnam MIAs. It is obvious that they have be camping out because
their equipment is out in the open. Their vigil is on a national
park near Constitution Avenue and the Vietnam Memorial. They are governed by the same
regulations, but Thomas has yet to hear of any arrests.
The legal battle has not been easy for Thomas. He has had
his legal paper work thrown out of court by a judge. It was in
Judge Oberdorfer's opinion that Thomas' complaint was "inartfully
drafted." The judge ordered him to get a lawyer. The lawyer was
from the American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.). The lawyer
needed time so the status hearing was postponed.
Has Thomas found the A.C.L.U. to be cooperative? No, there
are deep ideological "rifts" between them. Thomas does not
believe in 'the system' whereas the A.C.L.U. believes 'the
system' is fine and "...needs an occasional 'fine tuning."'
Thomas does not believe in national boundaries or money..They do.
Does he give them a hard time? "I don't think so. I never
screamed at them."
"I feel they're not doing a good job. I feel they
are doing their job as best as they see fit. I think
they don't have a clear perspective of what needs to be
done. Their always in a rush. They don't have time to
sit down and discuss things. They've always got meetings
to attend or court hearings or research to do, so they
don't have two hours or three hours to sit down with me
to understand where I'm coming from. They don't seem to
be notably fond of criticism."
The most honest appraisal of the situation was from a lawyer
He told the lawyer that he seemed tb have problems with
attorneys, deep rooted ideological differences. The attorney
replied very simply, "Yes, that's understandable you're a
philosopher. You're interested in truth. We're in this for the
Thomas does not think that he should have been forced to
have an attorney draw up the complaint. His legal complaint that
he "inartfully drafted" was correct in the areas of spelling,
grammar and structure. He suggested if that draft did not meet
the judge's specifications why did not the judge tell him what needed to be
corrected? When asked if he thought the judge wanted to spend
the time to explain to him what or how it should be written? He
replied, "I'm wondering is he interested in justice?"
So he is forced to go to the lawyers and all the lawyers
want money. Thomas concludes,
"Freedom is money in this country. Justice is
money in this country. Equality is justice. Equality
is money in this country. Everything is money. There
are no ideals. We are not an idealistic nation. We
have no concern with freedom, justice or equality.
Our only concerns are with money."
The hospitality of the group has not changed. They are
friendlier and as thoughtful as ever. While interviewing.Thomas,
Concepcion offered some leftover Armand's pizza, but it did not
look too appetizing. From which dynasty did it originate? In all
seriousness, they could not have been more hospitable.
What are Thomas' immediate goals? (See Appendix C: .Writ of
Mandamus.) What are his long term goals? Educate the public
to immediate threat of a nuclear holocaust, thereby putting
pressure on the government to eliminate all nuclear weapons.
Educate the public about 'the system' and the need for a
nonviolent revolution to end the present money oriented system.
He believes the economic system is not reality.
"It is a reality substitute.. It's a false
reality. It doesn't have anything to do with
elements...I think the only way that we can pos-
sibly change things, because violence, revolution
is not going change things. It's only going to
put a new name on it, a new person in the driver's
seat. The only way we can really change things is
to stop supporting what's going on, to wait for a
Has Thomas 'veered off' since December, 1981? No, he prefers
to be with Ellen more than others, but according to him he even feels stronger about the movement, but yet talking with him it is obvious he has 'mellowed out' a bit. This he does not like to
admit, but would not deny. He attributes his mellowness to his
wife, Ellen, who has approached the movement "with a lot of
gusto." Ellen does seem to be a very outspoken person after
witnessing her deal with people.
Does he think the public's attitude has changed since he
started? Yes, unquestionably! They are more concerned with the
issue of nuclear weapons. Before he would hear, "You're totally
out of touch with society.' 'People will never use nuclear
weapons.' 'Its only the threat to use them.' Now he rarely hears
that argument. "Almost everyone seems to view nuclear war as if
not inevitable quite likely, and people who did not seem to
consider it much of a problem before, now seem to be considering
it a problem."
People are now stating the ideas of Norman Mayer. The same
people would have never talked to Norman while he was alive. He
cited an example, Randall Forsberg, Carl Sagan and other
scientists last fall held a one night vigil. They gave speeches,
"...and it seemed like they were reading from Norman's
literature." He does not consider it plagiarizing. It just took
them a little longer to come to the same realizations."
Even though there has been a rise in nationalism, the
nationalists are no longer calling him 'a nut,' because they
realize the inevitability of a nuclear war. They seem.to be
prepared to accept the consequences of a nuclear war, in order to
protect 'Old Glory' or whatever they want to protect.
Thomas is not against the nuclear peace talks. If they really
wanted to eliminate nuclear weapons, they would have expedited
the matter already. The current logic is,,"Yes, we think that nuclear
weapons are terrible and we want to get rid of them and we've
decided the best way to get rid of them is to build more of
Parallel to that line of logic is an editorial that appeared
in The Washington Post. (Thomas read it aloud.) It was written
by Walter Stossel, Jr., Chairman of the Chemical Warfare Review
Commission, who had prepared a report for the President and
Congress. The editorial stated that after studying the present
state of chemical warfare and all the issues around it for a
period of three months with seven distinguished Americans, he
came to the conclusion, "...that the achievement of the ultimate
goal of the verifiable ban on nuclear warfare and its weapons
can`be increased only if we commit to modernize our inadequate
and deteriorating stockpiles." Thomas does not think this is a
rational nor intelligent suggestion.
Thomas is now not only concerned with nuclear weapons
destroying the world, but the government destroying the Vigil.
The government bs attempting to terminate Vigil by creating even
more rigid regulations in regards to protesting in national
parks. This past August 20, the Park Service decided to end the
"dump-like atmosphere" in Lafayette Park. They are attempting to
limit the number and size of posters. They are attempting to
regulate the legal distance a protester may travel from his or
her sign before it is considered "abandoned" and can be
confiscated. (Detailed information on proposed regulations can be
found in Appendix D: "American Freedom Alarm.")
It is easy to dismiss Thomas, Concepcion, Ellen and others,
labeling them as 'obsessed loonies,' 'paranoid crackpots,' who
are suing the government on the grounds of "conspiracy!" 'Get
serious!' It is easy to ignore them. It takes time to listen and
read their material. ^One may not agree with their philosophy, but the
important issue is the survival of the 24-Hour Anti-Nuclear Vigil
and their guaranteed rights of freedom of the press and of
speech, along with their civil rights. All of which are
threatened due to the current administration's desire to silence
a very successful and effective Vigil. They have been violating
the Vigil's civil and constitutional rights consistently, but
this court case is quite crucial since it will be establishing
the regulations effecting future protests and demonstrations with
regard to Lafayette Park and could possibly serve as a precedent
for all national parks. One never knows. It is hard to believe
that civil and constitutional rights have been and continue to be
violated, especially, in front of the White House. Best of luck
to Thomas; Concepcion, Ellen and other Vigil people in winning
the court case. Give 'em hell!
Peace Park | Reopen Pennsylvania Avenue
Proposition One | Current Events