Thursday, October 11, 1984


October 11,1984

Surveillance of the White House:

A "Petition in Hieroglyph"
by Ed Powell

Norman Mayer's soul goes marching on, though his body was killed by a Washington SWAT team on Dec. 9, 1981. Norman's two friends, Thomas and Connie, kept his message alive through a 24 hour vigil in front of the White House. Norman's leaflets turned into huge signs, "As an Act of Sanity Ban Nuclear Weapons," Or " Have a Nice Doomsday", and took on new content: "Live by the Bomb. Die by the Bomb."
During the first year (1982-83) Robert joined the vigil as a permanent member; a handful of others came, later left. Now the vigil is up to a hardcore of 12 members who live in Lafayette Park, proving you can not only survive but flourish without money if you have friends.
Thus a new community is sprouting in the very center of the nation's capital. The homeless are creating a home for themselves, in defiance of law and social pressure. "WHITE HOUSE Officials DESTROY PROTEST SIGNS" runs an Associated Press story of June 24, 1984 but a week later still more signs had grown. Visiting dignitaries in the White House could thus look out on the rabble, perhaps ask embarrassing questions. "The signs", say; the AP, "were clearly visible from the north portico of the White and from the Windows of the State floor, used for official parties and state dinners" (Buffalo News, 6/24/84).
On August 6, The Washington Times ran a page 1 story, "SIGNS TAKING ROOT IN LAFAYETTE PARK". The Times explained how the number and size of the signs had grown since last year's effort to regulate them, and quoted a White House staffer: "They look horrible...My little nieces and nephews come to visit Washington and when they went back to upstate New York that's all they talked about" (Washington Times August 6, 1984).
Understandably, kids Like life - and Washington is mostly made up of dead stone. In Lafayette Park people are beginning to talk to each other and play guitars; men take off their shirts...

Friday, September 7, 1984

Lafayette Park: Not Just Another Pretty Postcard

Lafayette Park: Not Just Another Pretty Postcard

Special to The New York Times
WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 - It used to be that one could stand in the middle of Lafayette Park, look across Pennsylvania Avenue and recognize the grand view of the White House that appears on so many travel brochures. No more.

Today, between the visitor and the mansion, there are dozens of protest signs calling for an end to the arms race,eradication of the narcotics trade, elimination of the national debt and a return to a belief in God.
Live by the Bomb/Die by the Bomb," one sign warns. "God Is the Absolute," says another, painted on a wooden billboard as big as the side of a van. Still another cries out: "Arrest Me, I Question the Validity of the Public Debt. Repeal Section 4, Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."
Between the statues of Andrew Jackson and the Comte de Rochambeau are nine empty tents erected in a crescent shaped "Reaganville" to protest what activists contend is the lack of proper concern for the homeless on the part of the President.
On the other side of Andrew Jackson, a voice rising from two loud speakers attached to a wooden platform 10 feet high ridicules people who accept the theory of evolution because, it is argued, that would require a belief that people have descended from maggots.

A Look of Permanence
The symbols of protest have a look of permanence about them. But that has not been achieved without a few court fights, here and elsewhere, between the government and the demonstrators over how to draw the line between the constitutional right to protest and the right to be left alone and enjoy a park.
"The problem, if that's what you want to call it, is that 10 years of court decisions have held that structures must be allowed at demonstrations, said Patricia Bangert, a lawyer with the National Park Service. Other court decisions, she added, have ordered the Government to permit demonstrations on a 24-hour basis and to allow amplified sound.
Just about the only victory the government has enjoyed in this area was the Supreme Court decision June 29 upholding a ban on overnight sleeping in the National Parks near the White House. It is because of that ban that the nine tents of "Reaganville" stand empty in Lafayette Park.

'An Eyesore in Some Ways'
What do tourists think of the scene?
Bruce Lilley, on a visit from the Baltimore area, where he is a graduate student in biology at the University of Maryland, took no offense at the protest signs as he looked at victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima depicted in photographs that had been tacked to a board. "The pictures are pretty impressive," he said. "You can't get an idea of what radiation does to you until you've seen the pictures."
Mr. Lilley said he saw some good in the protester's efforts. "There's Ronald Reagan over there in the White House and he looks out at this," he said. "It shows how strong the First Amendment is. It might be an eyesore in some ways, but it's better to make a mistake in favor of freedom and not to shut it down."
The tents are a tempting setup for tourist photographs because a corner of the White House can be seen in the background, behind the trees in full leaf. Sharron Uhler, an archivist from the University of Missouri at Kansas City, could not resist the temptation to snap two colleagues from Topeka as they stood next to a sign that said, "Welcome to Reaganville 1984 Where Sleep is Considered a Crime."
"I think it's just kind of interesting," said Miss Uhler, who was in Washington for the archivists' convention. "It's good that we can have a mini tent city in front of the White House."
The tents are about 8 by 10 feet and have rust-colored sides and cream tops. They were put up by the Community for Creative Nonviolence, which is trying to find shelter for the city's homeless.
The tents are empty, just like the President's promises," said Mitch Snyder, a leader of the group, which lost the case in June in the Supreme Court. The broken promises, Mr. Snyder added, included a failure by the administration to refurbish an old building that his group had used to house 700 people a night last winter.
Mr. Snyder says most people, including Government officials, do not begrudge his organization the opportunity to express opposition to President Reagan by erecting empty tents in the middle of the park. But some, he said, "would trade esthetics values for the First Amendment." He said the collection of tents was not an eyesore but instead "enhances the view of the White House, especially in this Administration."

Nuclear Arms and Fast Food
Many of the protest signs concern nuclear disarmament. One, a wooden version, is about 10 feet wide and 15 feet high and says that the end of the threat of nuclear war is "The Absolute Responsibility of every rational being on this planet."
"People give me money, but I use it mostly for printing," said Concepcion Picciotto, pointing to a pile of handbills and petitions behind one of her posters. She and William Thomas erected many of the signs on nuclear arms, according to their handouts.
Miss Picciotto added that she had been living off discarded food from nearby fast-food shops. "But now they are under orders to lock the dumpsters, so it will feed the rats instead of people," she said.
As Miss Picciotto spoke, a group of perhaps 20 Japanese tourists walked up Pennsylvania Avenue. When they got to the front of the park, half of them turned to take pictures of the White House and the other half photographed Miss Picciotto's and Mr. Thomas's signs, among them some showing bodies burned in the 1945 United States atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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Wednesday, August 8, 1984


August 8,1984


By Charles E. Wheeler
The Washington Times

Dozens of large protest signs have gone up in Lafayette Park since last year's National Park Service regulations restricting demonstrations on the White House sidewalk, and they're getting mixed reviews from locals and tourists.
Many of the signs are almost the size of billboards and most have sturdy, semi-permanent support braces anchored in the park.
"They look horrible," a White House staffer said yesterday.
"My little nieces and nephews came to visit Washington and when they went back to upstate New York that's all they talked about," she said.
Here starts an anti-nuclear 24 hour vigil since June 1981 maintained by Thomas and Concepcion," says a narrow, hand- lettered sign.
More than 100 feet (and 18 signs) later, the row of protest signs erected by "Thomas and Concepcion" ends.
"There are no real restrictions on structures like there are on the sidewalk in front of the White House," said attorney Trish Bangert of the Interior Department, when asked about the size and semi-permanent status of some of the signs in Lafayette Park.
Restrictions apply only if a structure is attached to a tree or disrupts the environment in some other way, she said. All of the protest signs in Lafayette Park are free- standing.
Signs by Thomas and Concepcion account for more than half the total number now resting in Lafayette Park.
They aren't the only protesters, though. A new 12-foot by 12-foot sign was getting a final touch of paint Monday just a few yards from where Thomas and Concepcion have their display.
Most of the signs condemn nuclear war, but one 15-foot-long by 10-foot-high sign says, "God is the Absolute."
A smaller sign says: "Arrest me-I question the validity of the national debt."
The most imposing structure stands 16-feet high, is 12 feet wide and cries out in silver and black paint, "Have a nice Doomsday".
They don't bother me at all," said Sue Eubanks of Fredericksburg, Va. "They're better across the street [in Lafayette Park] so the president can look out the window and see them," she said.
"If they've got time to paint signs, they've got time to get a job and go to work," said as Indiana man who just arrived with his wife for their first visit to the nation's capital.
"That's how we got the money to come to Washington-work," he said.
The signs "should be there, of course," because "its a free country" said a man from New York City.
"Oh, my Lord! They're funny, though," he said.
"There ought to be a better way to do it than littering," said Mike Kuntz, a University of Nebraska student visiting from Lincoln.
"It's just a barrage of senseless words and graffiti across from the White House," said his friend, Joe Frazier, a University of Virginia student from McLean.
The Federal Court of Appeals held a formal hearing July 25 concerning the constitutionality of some of the Park Service regulations restricting signs on the sidewalk directly in front of the White House.
A decision is expected within a month or two, an Interior Department spokesman said.
Protesters maybe able to go back across the street the White House sidewalk if the court rescinds the Park Service regulations. If not, the protest signs in Lafayette Park may continue to grow in number and size.

Friday, August 3, 1984

Protesting According to the Rules

Protesting According to the Rules

The Washington Post
Saturday, November 3, 1984
By Philip Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer

Daily, except for unwelcome trips to court or jail, Concepcion Picciotto has stood her White House vigil since the summer of 1981, protesting the spread of nuclear arms. In those three years, she has been arrested 15 times.
"I believe in the ideals of this country," Picciotto says in her native Spanish accent, vowing to stand fast: within eyeshot of the president of the United States across Pennsylvania Avenue.
She wears a wig the size of a football helmet and a chestful of buttons carrying political slogans. But Picciotto's legal difficulties are not rooted, at least directly, in anyone's suspicion that she is a wide-eyed, bomb-throwing radical.
Instead, Picciotto and other protesters have run afoul of a new thicket of regulations drawn up by the Interior Department, enforced by the U.S. Park Police and recently blessed by the courts, and designed to restrict those who choose the president's doorstep to express their political opinions..
The rules, in effect since May, are expected to get their first major test since winning court approval when demonstrators gather today for a rally called by the Community for Creative Non-Violence.
The regulations leave little to a demonstrator's imagination:
A demonstrator who is not carrying a placard or sign, for example, may sit to rest on the White House fence ledge. If he rests while holding a placard, he is subject to arrest.
Signs of up to 20 feet in length and three feet in height may be set up on portions of the White House sidewalk. All must be at least three feet from the fence to guard against concealed explosives.
Signs constructed of cardboard, posterboard or cloth may be carried by demonstrators. Wooden signs are forbidden because, security experts testified in court this year, they could be used to scale the White House fence.
In a central zone extending 10 yards on either side of the White House fence centerpost along Pennsylvania Avenue, stationary signs are prohibited in order to clear the view for tourists. Demonstrators may be in the "central zone" while carrying signs, if they keep moving.
In a series of recent court cases, federal officials have defended the rules as necessary to protect against acts of terrorism and preserve the beauty of the White House view.
Lawyers for the demonstrators, including the American Civil Liberties Union, continue to complain that the restrictions are illegal intrusions on First Amendment guarantees of free speech and the right to assemble.
With relatively little fanfare, the onset of the regulations-prompted, according to the administration, by the threat of a demonstrator to blow up the Washington Monument two years ago-has turned the White House sidewalk and Lafayette Park into a legal battleground.
"There is no more important place for demonstrators than out in front of the White House," says Jeffrey Pash, a lawyer at the prestigious law firm of Covington and Burling who has represented some indigent protesters in court.
"Whether the First Amendment has been backed into a corner, that might be a little strong. But the regulations are certainly a setback for people like Concepcion."
"Frankly we were shocked that we had so much trouble getting the rules through the courts," counters Royce C. Lamberth, chief of the U.S. Attorneys office civil division. "The White House is probably one of the most vulnerable living residences of a head of state in the world."
Interior spokeswoman Sandra Alley said Interior received numerous complaints from tourists before the department banished large, permanent protest signs from in front of the mansion to nearby Lafayette Park.
Administration officials say their concerns about presidential security were heightened considerably when, on Dec. 8,1982, a longtime White House protester,Norman Mayer, backed a truck up to the Washington Monument and threatened to detonate 1,000 pounds of dynamite. When Mayer tried to drive away, possibly headed for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,police shot him to death.
"One thing that was obvious," Lamberth said of the episode, "was, what do we do when the same thing happens at the White House?"
In the view of attorney Pash, security then became "an all purpose alibi" for a crackdown on demonstrators' activities near the White House. "Whether Mayer caused the new regulations or was more of an excuse is certainly open to question," he says.
As evidence of the administration's attitude, Pash cites a Jan. 13, 1983 MEMO by then-Interior Secretary James Watt. In the memo, included in a recent court case, Watt asked for a briefing on the demonstrators. "My intention is to prohibit such activities and require that they take place in the Ellipse," well south of the White House grounds, Watt said. His sweeping idea never took effect, but interior moved to implement its stricter regulations soon afterward.
Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge William B. Bryant threw out the rules, branding them "totally ineffective" and "demonstrably too vague." Bryant's ruling, however, was stayed by the U.S. Court of Appeals while the government's appeal was pending.
Last Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals in White House Vigil for the ERA Committee v. William P. Clark, upheld the regulations for both security and esthetics reasons.
In the face of such pronouncements, Picciotto says she tries to toe the Interior Department's Line. "I just moved in here," she says, indicating a patch of sidewalk in Lafayette Park where demonstrators have been told to stand during the reseeding of the park lawns.
"I think I'm all-right here, but I'm not sure."

Camping or using park land for living accommodation purposes.
Attaching signs or other objects to lamp posts, trees or structures in the park.
Constructing, including painting, signs or structures in the park.
Storing construction materials-lumber paint, tools, laundry carts, luggage, household items,food or personal property-in the park.
Injuring federal property, including snow fencing, grass or other vegetation or structures.
Erecting structures without an official permit.
Using sound equipment so as to disturb nonparticipating persons in the area unreasonably.
Failing to hold or secure signs so as to eliminate safety hazards. Signs must be secured from high winds and supports must not pose a tripping or other hazard.
Failing to have dogs or cats entirely under control and caged or on a leash not more than six feet long.
NOTE: In order to reseed the park, public access to the grassy areas currently is being restricted. Until the grass is established, which is expected to take another two to four weeks, all activities, including demonstrations, have been relocated to the sidewalks within the park.

No signs or placards shall be permitted on the White House sidewalk except those made of cardboard, posterboard or cloth having dimensions no grater than three feet in width, 20 feet in length, and one quarter inch in thickness.
No supports shall be permitted for signs or placards except those made of wood having cross-sectional dimensions no greater than three quarters of an inch by three quarters of an inch.
Stationary signs or placards shall be no closer than three feet of the White House sidewalk fence.
All signs and placards shall be attended at all times they are on the White House sidewalk. Signs or placards shall be considered attended only when they are in physical contact with a person.
No signs or placards shall be tied, fastened, or otherwise attached to or leaned against the White House fence, lamp posts or other structures on the White House sidewalk.
No signs or placards shall be held, placed or set down on the center portion of the White House sidewalk, comprising 10 yards on either side of the center point on the sidewalk. However, individuals may demonstrate while carrying signs on that portion of the sidewalk if they continue to move along the sidewalk.

Thursday, February 16, 1984

Marine Assaults Concepcion and Thomas




Volume 6 Issue 15 February 16-22, 1984

I, Concepcion Picciotto, under the penalty of perjury, hereby depose and state that:
On January 22, 1984, at about six AM, a small blue automobile stopped in front of my anti-nuclear protest signs on the south side of Lafayette Park, bordering Pennsylvania Ave. facing the White House. A man, who later identified himself to Park police officers as John Deming, U.S. Marine Corps, Navy Annex, Va., emerged from the passenger door of the automobile. Mr. Deming walked to the end of my signs, and punched a sign which read, "Live by the bomb; die by the bomb." He then kicked the sign, breaking it.
I recognized Mr. Deming from an occasion which had occurred approximately two months earlier. At that time, during the late evening, Mr. Deming had accosted me in the same location, the site of a round the clock vigil against nuclear weapons which I have been maintaining for over two and one half years. Mr. Deming repeatedly cursed and threatened, telling me that he had been trained to kill. After some time, a police officer arrived, and told Mr. Deming to leave. Before leaving, Mr. Deming warned me that he would be back.
When I noticed what Mr. Deming was doing to my sign on the morning of the 22, I asked him why he was doing it. He told me, "These signs are shit!" He then began calling me a number of names including "communist", and "nigger", and told me to "get out of this country". He began to advance on in a threatening manner, and I told him I was going to take the license number of the car. He got back in the car, and drove west on Pennsylvania Ave. before I could get the number.
A short time later I saw a man approaching from the west. I did not immediately recognize Mr. Deming because he was now wearing a blue ski jacket, while he had been coatless when , he left in the car.
Mr. Deming walked past me and began to punch holes in a sign which read: "God is the Absolute."
"You are a coward", I yelled at Mr. Deming, terrified at his behavior.
Mr. Deming then punched me in the mouth. He grabbed the aluminum head-dress which I wear, and forced it down over my face, cutting the bridge of my nose. He held the head- dress over my face making it hard for me to breathe, and increasing my terror. I broke away, and ran into the street. screaming for help. I saw Mr. John Foxcroft and called for him to phone the police.
At about that time my friend. William Thomas, arrived at the signs, and Mr. Deming immediately attacked Thomas by punching him repeatedly in the head, knocking Thomas to the ground more than once.
Park police officers Rico Woods and Charles Stubby arrived shortly after. They summoned an ambulance to inspect my wounds, and questioned Mr. Deming briefly, before he was driven away in an Armed Forces police car.
This is at least the third occasion on which Thomas has been physically assaulted by a U.S. marine in connection with our protest activities, and at least the fourth occasion on which s marine has attacked our signs.
signed: Concepcion Picciotto
January 23, 1984

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