The "Reaganville" tent city erected in Lafayette Park to protest cuts in social programs has become an eyesore that should be dismantled immediately and its residents should not be permitted to re-assemble, a national public interest law group asserted yesterday in a complaint filed with the National Park Service.
The Washington Legal Foundation also asked Interior Secretary James Watt to adopt a new rule that, among other things, would stop all camping except in regularly designated park campgrounds and would prohibit the private erection of any type of shelter within 300 yards of the White House for security reasons.
Sandra Alley, speaking for the park service's regional office, said official rules already are being drafted that would ban individually erected structures in parks and would limit camping to park campgrounds. She said they will be published soon in the Federal Register.
The Community for Creative Non-Violence, an activist group that works with the city's poor, first set up a tent village the day after Thanksgiving. It was removed because U.S. Park Police contended it violated a ban on camping in such locations. CCNV then went to court and, late in January, won the right over park service objections to have people sleep in the tents to demonstrate the plight of the homeless.
The Washington Legal Foundation, in its letter to Manus J. (Jack) Fish, park service regional director, contended that there are more tents than the permits allow, and the permits are being misused.
"The occupants of the campsite are hanging clothes on tree limbs, scattering clothes and other belongings on the ground, serving food, ruining the grass, and otherwise creating a public nuisance and public eyesore to the detriment of the general public's use and enjoyment of Lafayette Park," Paul D. Kamenar, the foundation's litigation director, wrote.
The foundation often espouses conservative causes "but on this one, we think most of the public will be with us," Kamenar told a reporter.
Mitch Snyder, a leader of CCNV, denied that his group has exceeded its permit terms. He said CCNV's nine tents that form the core of the tent village will be removed on Saturday, but those of other individual homeless may remain.