My office is in close proximity to Lafayette Park and, in fact, looks down directly on the portion of the park where the demonstrators are.
I believe the demonstrations in Lafayette Park are a laudable exercise of First Amendment rights and that the proposed regulations would unreasonably and illegally interfere with those rights. While the rights of the public to use the park are important and should not be overridden by demonstrators, the present regulations, as opposed to the proposed regulations, seem to establish a proper balance between these two important rights.
I commend the National Park Service and, in particular, the National Capital Region for maintaining beauty and open space for all of us, but I strongly believe that the rights of individuals to protest in the vicinity, particularly in front of the White House, provide us with a form of beauty in the nature of a testament to American individual rights and civil liberties that far outweighs the minor inconveniences of the occasional unsightliness that these protesters cause in a small portion of Lafayette Park.
-- H. Stewart Dunn Jr.
*I want to support continued use of large signs -- easily read by passers-by -- and a wide range of permission for the placards and signs used at Lafayette Park across from the White House.
Dissent isn't always beautiful, and crucial issues need to be brought to the attention of our thousands of tourists. Long live maximum free expression -- and democracy!
-- Frances M. Goodman
*The proposed size restrictions on signs would keep them from being read by people in passing cars, on the other side of the street and in the White House. If a sign cannot be read, its utility is nonexistent. Therefore, I feel the restrictions would prohibit freedom of speech. Wherever the public is allowed, so should demonstration be allowed. . . .
I appreciate the beauty of the park; I don't see it as soiled by the demonstrators. . . .
-- Robert C. Ahlstrom
*I oppose all proposed changes to Park Service rules and regulations that would in any way, or to any degree, further restrict expressive activity in Lafayette Park and its environs.
As I understand it, elimination of "visual blight" is the stated reason for this latest attempt to curtail such activity in the vicinity of the White House. In light of the long and checkered history of official efforts to squelch demonstrative activity in this most symbolically significant of public places, there is reason enough to be skeptical of the bona fides of the Park Service's purported concern with improving the "aesthetics" of Lafayette Park. But even assuming, arguendo, the veracity of its stated reason for the proposed rule changes, I nevertheless oppose them.
"Beauty," as the old saying goes, "is in the eye of the beholder." To my eye, when I pass Lafayette Park, there is true "beauty" in the sight of our First Amendment rights of petition, assembly and free speech receiving such tangible, vigorous and eclectic real-world expression, rather than being paid the mere lip service that is all too often the lot of our fundamental constitutional guarantees. To me -- and I daresay to many other Americans -- ours would be an "ugly" country indeed if, for the sake of "beautification," it were to be stripped of the varied, raucous and occasionally disconcerting varieties of expression which the First Amendment is meant to protect.
-- William G. McLain
*Both Lafayette Park and the White House sidewalk hold a unique place in the history of political dissent in this country. They have been the place where, by tradition, people have made their protests against their government known. . . .
We understand that there are those who consider the continuous demonstrators or vigils of long duration to be a nuisance or an eyesore. We believe that an occasional nuisance or even occasional disorder is a very small price to be paid for a free and open democratic society. True democracy is rarely an orderly process. Strict order tends to be the byproduct of totalitarian, repressive regimes with little respect for individual rights. It is in just this way that America, with all its irrepressible energy differs from the cold oppressive order of states like the Soviet Union.
Thus it should come as no surprise that we firmly oppose the proposed amendments to the National Capital Parks regulations that would serve to limit and curtail the practice of just those precious rights we hold so dear.
-- Vivian Ballard is a member of the White House Vigil for the ERA Com- mittee.