NATO Target (Not only the homeless are being cleared out of

Peace through Reason (prop1@prop1.org)
Fri, 23 Apr 1999 04:50:59 -0400


PRESS RELEASE

CONTACT: Ellen Thomas 202-462-0757

NATO BIRTHDAY FETE, STRANGLING FREEDOM IN DC?

        Last week National Park Service workers passed out a "Public Notice"
which dictated, "persons demonstrating or otherwise using ... portion(s) of
(Lafayette) park ... should remove themselves ... from the area."  William
Thomas, who has maintained a continuous vigil in Lafayette Park since 1981,
says that he cannot comply with that Park Service dictate, and that he expects
he will be arrested on Friday when he refuses to remove his signs from the
sidewalk. 

        "Just twelve years ago such heavy handed government tactics would have
been totally inconceivable,"  Thomas says.  "Thanks to the ever more popular
national obsession with security, the concurrent diminishment of freedom, and a
judicial system which isn't troubled by the facts of reality, what was once
unthinkable has now become standard operating procedure."

        According to Thomas, the first time that portions of Lafayette Park
were
closed was on the occasion of Mikhail Gorbachev's first visit to DC in
December, 1987.   Shocked by this abrupt departure from the traditional
American tradition of democratic ideals, Thomas filed a complaint in the
District Court.  He urged the Court to enjoin the closure, claiming that the
Gorbachev visit presented no additional security concerns than the visits to
the White House of many hundreds of other foreign dignitaries.  Additionally,
Thomas claimed that the closure violated Code of Federal Regulation
requirements for park closures.

        "The government argued that this was an 'extraordinary circumstance'
which would probably never happen again, and that the closures were only going
to be for periods of ten or fifteen minutes, while Gorbachev was actually
entering or leaving the White House," Thomas recalls.  "I said that it was like
letting the camel get his nose into the tent, and that if the Court let them
get away with it, they would just keep pushing and sneaking further into the
tent."  The Court compromised, allowing the police to close sections of the
park, and exclude the demonstrators, but allowing the demonstrators signs to
remain in the closed areas.

        Thomas feels that time has proven the accuracy of his predictions. 
"This will be the seventh time this year that the government has closed
portions of the park.  Not only that, instead of for 'short periods of time,'
this time they're going to do it for a far longer period."

        "President Reagan used to teach that the Evil Empire, centered around
Moscow's Red Square, was a 'mindless bureaucracy' with no respect for the
sanctity of free expression," Thomas said, "comparing it to Lafayette Park,
where 'people are free to demonstrate, and express their opinions.'. Today, if
Mr. Reagan can still think, he might be very disappointed to realize that
'secret police, mindless bureaucracy' tactics are at work in Lafayette Park,"
Thomas claimed.

        Thomas says that he considers the closure to be illegal, and that he
will remain at his usual demonstration location, because, "To do otherwise
would be to capitulate to tyranny."

A hypertext version of this press release, complete with links to relevent
supporting documents, is accessible at
http://prop1.org/legal/990423.closure/tyranny.htm

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