It has been well over two years since I've been able to enjoy Lafayette Park. I can no longer have lunch on the grass or take a stroll along the walks, especially the southern and eastern sectors, without being visually assaulted or physically displaced by billboards, lean-tos, derelict furniture, bedding and personal items and their "attendants." I can't even photograph the White House from the Andrew Jackson statue without including what seems to be a permanent display of personal epistles and whimsical epithets. When one considers that this is the second most important visual and symbolic axis in Washington, the current conditions become all the more intolerable.
I wholeheartedly support the freedoms of speech and assembly. However, when those freedoms are abused to the extent of usurping the rights and privileges of the majority, then I must vehemently object. In the case of Lafayette Park, the exercise of those basic rights is nothing more than burlesque, a theater of the absurd performed at the expense of our dignity as a city and a people. . . .
-- Jeffrey R. Carson
*It is about time something was done about those posters and the "hippies" who sleep in that park. I pay my taxes like everyone else, and I like to show off our nation's capital. There are other ways to protest than spoiling the area around the White House. . . .
-- Marty Burrell
*As a lifelong Washington resident, I have seen this once lovely park become a veritable skid row, a scrapheap for so-called "protesters" and their mindless signs. As a resident of this city, I feel this is my park to be used as intended -- not a tatty forum for . . . half-witted rabble.
I used to enjoy taking lunch in the park but, like so many, was driven away by the sight, sound and smell of this outrage. I am proud of my city and am, frankly, ashamed when I see tourists recoil in shock and horror at what they see -- a wasteland of idiotic signs, scrap lumber, rubbish and disused office furniture. The "protesters" are even more unsightly and most are clearly mentally unbalanced. Time was such people were called simply bums; now they are "protesters" -- twaddle.
It is shocking to hear (well, not really) the American Civil Liberties Union say this lunacy is "free speech." It is not. This mindless and destructive situation makes a mockery of free speech, as well as whatever cause they are espousing. . . .
-- Peter C. Kohler
*Lafayette Park is no longer a park. The wooden placards, banners and signs deface a park that is supposedly under the protection of the National Park Service. A poor precedent is being set. Which park is next? Can signs and protest billboards be set up in Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon?
The signs also pose a real security threat. Make no mistake about it, the billboards are a hazard to the president. It would be possible to hide a weapon behind a 10- to 12-foot placard. . . . These wooden placards are a Trojan Horse sitting in the park across from the president's house. The security threat is real. . . .
Protesters have many outlets here. . . . The new regulations will not infringe upon their rights. The issue is, quite simply, who has any right to deface a U.S. park?
-- Brian J. Berry
*In 1975, the park was a beautiful spot to enjoy for walkers or passersby in a car. I would take friends and relatives from out of town to a White House public tour and exit through the park -- demonstrating that lovely green space for public use existed even in urban areas. Since I worked out of my offices at 13th and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, it was often necessary to go to the downtown law firms or business offices of clients or associates, and I would walk through the park as a pleasurable interlude in an otherwise hectic day. . . .
In 1985, the park is a hostile assault on the senses, dirty and showing gross wear and tear from members of the public too irresponsible to share a common resource without destroying it.
As a constitutional legal scholar, I applaud political statements, parades, signs for protest and other exercises of free speech. . . . But too much crude, rude and socially unacceptable conduct in Lafayette Park is now being passed off as just another segment of free speech. . . .
I have seen, on various daylight occasions, open acts of sex, drug abuse, urination and defecation, hostile threats and obscene actions to people walking through the park, intimidation of tourists for money and begging. These acts were done by the same people I see day in and day out tending their lean-to shelters and "tents" made out of the "free speech" signs.
I implore the Park Service to act quickly, but reasonably, to clean up this national disgrace.
-- Dennis Dean Kirk