08/06/99 PEACE PARK......
A QUESTION OF FREE SPEECH
Day of the Nazis
Historic days, such is life on the freedom of speech front lines, on the sidewalk, in front of the White House. Today was no exception for a number of reasons. First and foremost was the absence of Proposition One's Anti-nuclear Vigil signs, that have represented individual free speech in the Park since 1984 and on the sidewalk since 1981. For the first time, possibly ever, Lafayette (PEACE) Park was closed to the public. because of a public demonstration!! WHY??
It seems the Park Service had issued a permit to D.W. Hawke for a demonstration, his groups political agenda, 90's nazism. They were assigned the eastern half of the park. While on the Western half was given to a group called Shalom International. Their views countered Mr. Hawke's point of view, in fact they were there to protest his very presence. The middle of the park was closed for a police staging area, due to the 1,450 extra officers pressed into service for the potential trouble. Thomas' signs were in this designated area, therefore had to be moved for our protection. We had one day to mount a challenge to yet another illegal closure of the Park, illegal because of the set procedure, that has been established by specific guidelines, but never used. Probably because of a Mickey Mouse judicial system that keeps allowing the DOI to run amok on peoples rights. Temporary Restraining Order, to allow the vigil to remain at it's location, denied!!
As i crashed for the night the situation had yet to be resolved. Awaking to find the signs on top of the van, i had a very unusual 'day off.' There was also a feeling that just did not sit well with my sense of freedom. To me that meant walking the War Victims "coffin" down to the Park or as close as i could get. The Quest for Peace has yet to be completed, unless i'm missing something. Peace on Earth, as i understand it, doesn't seem to be a reality quite yet!!
Arriving at I and 16th Streets i saw the first of the security precautions being enforced. Barricades were erected across 16th Street and blue uniforms in battle gear everywhere. Helmets, shields, gas masks, nightsticks, the wwhole wworks. As i proceeded to 17th Street at Farragut Square the park there had been turned into a staging area for even more police. After taking a few photos i headed back to 16th Street to see what was going to happen.
Once back at 16th Street i stood among the tourists that couldn't get to the White House, there were also many people carrying anti-nazi signs. The rally point for the marches was a few blocks away, so i parked the "coffin" close to the barricade and waited. An officer wanted to check inside the "coffin" for weapons, finding nothing but a water bottle, some Prop 1 fliers and a brown teddy-bear (a companion of many miles), he just kind of shook his head and returned to the barricade.
A Shalom International representative came to the barricade and announced last call for anyone wanting to protest the nazis. Several people moved out of the crowd, which by this time was over 100 people, and went through a very thorough search before they were allowed to travel the last block to the Park. Suddenly a huge crowd of protesters, coming down I Street, arrived at the intersection. Shortly after they arrived, they were informed that the nazis did not show and that the nazis march had been cancelled. Amid an extended, loud, victory cheer, the barricades were opened and the march proceeded towards the Park, as the crowd went by, i figured that was my cue and started up 16th Street.
Once on H Street people still were not permitted in the Park, as there were more police and barricades. People with bull-horns were standing on the concrete barriers on the Park side walk shouting accolades at the groups efforts of successively stopping the nazis. My attention was quickly redirected off to my right. A bunch of kids had a couple of drums, some buckets, pots and plastic jugs with rocks in them to use as shakers, and started a little jam. For the next 2 hours a steady beat filled H street and the Park and drowned out the speakers, to the point the speakers lost their crowd and gave up. While many groups(church groups, anarchists, punks, hippies, communist, "freepers", and media) marched up and down H Street, while the drums played on. Establishing a more festive atmosphere and dis-arming the violent rhetoric.
Eventually, when the permits expired, the police, reclaimed the street as the crowd dispersed, the drums became silent and things returned to normal. But wait, there's more, because the situation in the park had already started to change. nah! that's a different story.
The right to free speech seems to be a very interesting concept in this country. We fought a war to have it, but sometimes have trouble allowing it, especially if it doesn't agree with what we have been programmed to think. Today a large group of people (anti-nazis) stopped a smaller group of people (nazis) from practicing that right. In the mean time, an even larger group of people (the government) denied an individual (W Thomas and his 18 year, 24 hr a day, vigil) these same rights. This was done with regulations that restrict the very same freedom America once fought for. Media hype, fear mongering control freaks and arbitrary enforcement of regulations cost taxpayers some serious money. Something is seriously wrong with this equation. Has fear got that out of control? Have we lost all contact with the real joy it is to be alive? Are we really afraid about what a group of college kids might say in public? Stay tuned-- this is just starting to get interesting!!!!
NO PEACE, WITHOUT A PERMIT!!!!!!!!!?
See Current Situation in Peace Park