The Home News
Serving Dade County for 41 years
APRIL 25, 1985


by Dansforth B. Taylor

There's a famous park here in Washington, across the street from the White House. It is called Lafayette Park. It's the kind of place where the champion "demonstrators" of the Western World congregate 24 hours a day throughout the year, to make their views known to the president, who lives just across the street.

There's a woman (there in the park) who has become quite famous for her three year continual presence (day and night) seeking a total nuclear ban. One of her mentors and friends for years, a Dade County citizen, Norman Mayer, was shot and killed at the Washington Monument three years ago, Dec. 8, 1982, suspected (at the time by the police) as having a half-ton of dynamite in a van parked by the tower itself, supposedly ready to explode at the touch of a radio signal from Mayer.

Mayer's reach for immortality was based on a bluff. There turned out to be no dynamite in his van at all. Still, he was shot in the head from three hundred feet on the basis that he had reported the existence of the "dynamite" to police who claimed to have no reason not to believe him.

The story is more fascinating when looked at through the eyes of this fiftyish-appearing lady who may certainly be dubbed the "Chief Demonstrator of Lafayette Park."

Meet "Connie," Concepcion Picciotto, who is more than willing to point out that Mayer was the "father figure" to the committed demonstrators who see themselves as setting a world-class standard for the specialized lobbying effort against "NUCLEAR WAR."

Connie's partner is a 38-year-old intellectual named William Thomas, known simply as "Thomas" to millions of fans around the world who followed the story of the only 24-hour peace vigil against nuclear weapons being conducted anywhere in the world.

Connie and Thomas must never sleep soundly, or the police of Washington will arrest them.

That is the game that has been played since June 3, 1981. Both Thomas and Connie have been arrested scores of times. They have been beaten by zealous patriots and they must never sleep too deep.

Thomas got deported from England for trashing his American passport and he headed for Washington.

"They just pushed me through the doors at Customs and said 'welcome to America.'" Thomas feels that he is a man without a country because he believes that the United States nuclear policy is dangerous.

Thomas joined Connie in 1981 and the 24-hour anti-nuclear vigil started.

Enter Norman Mayer.

Mayer paid Connie a-penny-a-piece to pass out his anti-nuke literature. Norman, who was nearing seventy years, became a father figure to the anti-nuke movement. He stood up for them in court and he had a plan he would not reveal. A plan to get the world's attention on the nuke issue. A faster plan. He watched and he helped.

Thomas had gone on a 57-day hunger strike. Norman talked him out of that with a bouquet of roses. Thomas was dying on the sidewalk and Norman brought roses and said he had a better way to get the world's attention than to die .

On Dec. 8, 1982, Connie and Thomas were arrested one more time. Norman returned from a trip and found them gone. It was time for Norman to do (in his mind) the one great heroic act for his dialogue on freedom, truth and the meaning of life.

"The main point I'm trying to make," he says, "is that the earth is a unit, it's a whole thing. It is not compartmentalized. And what people do is divide this unit up with imaginary lines. This is not productive...they fight wars over land they do not own. The only thing you actually own is your own life...

"I can clearly see that there are many different concepts of reality, but a concept of reality doesn't change the actual reality. There is a real plane and an imaginary plane, and when we live in the imaginary [plane it causes chaos"-and that, he says, is why the world is in the mess it is in: festering with war, crime, cruelty, starvation, poverty, oppression and assorted petty personal problems."

Thomas says there's only one reason he bothers to talk to people: to provoke them into thinking about the existence of God, "because if they believe there is no justice beyond what we can see in one lifetime, then the rule of the earth will continue to be Might is Right - and it isn't." To him, God is reason.

He said the purpose of life "is to acquire wisdom and attain moral perfection."

To that end, he embarked on an odyssey six years ago, leaving behind a wife and a New Mexico jewelry business, to experience life and find out what is true and what is not.

At the time, he was studying the Bible, and he found himself preoccupied with the notion that money is the root of all evil. "I had a house, three cars, bank accounts, insurance policies and I thought: I have all these things, these 'rewards', and yet the Bible tells me I am not living the right way... And I thought, if that was true - if money led to evil, and if you need money to live - then the syllogism followed that evil is necessary, which was not palatable to me."

So he set out to see if he could live without money or jobs, in order to prove that money was unnecessary. "To tell the truth," he says, I had some anxieties. I was leaving my wife behind. I said, "Is this rational? Are you sane? But I had to test this out. And I knew that if I found it to be true, then the world was living a radically irrational existence."

Thomas' journey took him to New York where he worked for a week as a carpenter to make enough money for a one way ticket to Casablanca. From there he walked on foot to Cairo. He had no money.

"There were days I went without food," he says, "and in six months I did sleep outside for about six weeks. But otherwise food and shelter were just provided. I never asked anybody for anything. I had a blanket over my shoulder and the clothes I was wearing; that was all. People would just come up to me and say, 'Where are you going? That's a long way. Where are you sleeping? Come with me.' They asked me, they frequently asked me what I needed. I never asked."

He returned to the United States for a time, working as a dispatcher for a cab company and as a stone carver. Then he resumed his journey. Over several years, he said, he traveled back and forth across Europe. He found himself last year in London, where he was jailed for several months after overstaying his visa. Eventually the authorities deported him to the United States. He arrived last October at Kennedy National Airport, where he had to be forcibly removed from the plane. "I was dragged into the customs office," he says, "where I was told I was now in America and free to go where I pleased."

The seed to that ordeal was a decision he had made in London months before: He no longer wished to be an American citizen. In the course of his wanderings, he had come the conclusion that the United States was contributing to the destruction of the earth and exploiting its inhabitants. Therefore, for him to advise others not to fight over land and exploit one another, while he was benefiting from the American passport, seemed hypocritical to him. Association with a country whose ideals he loved but while practices he abhorred was inconsistent with his goal of attaining moral perfection.

So he had taken the waterproof wallet containing his union cards, his social security card, and his passport and had thrown it into a lake in Hyde Park, England. "I assumed," he says, that there was nothing wrong with throwing away my passport because I knew myself to be a free man... Then I decided I would walk back to the Mideast, but when I got to Dover, I was arrested...

"I argued that I couldn't have a visa, because I didn't have a passport, for reasons I have already explained. Additionally, visas are designed to control populations, and since I was leaving the country, I was no threat to the population...They had no right to tell me I had to be an American. It is not for anyone else to decide who I am; it is for me to decide..."

Thomas has written down his thoughts and his experiences, an account that exceeds 300 pages. In March, he telephoned the Soviet Embassy here, saying he had a manuscript dealing with the conflict between America's ideals and its practices and asking if the Soviet embassy was interested. He says he has no sympathy for communism, but thought he'd try to communicate his ideas on this through another channel. When he arrived at the embassy, he met with V. Doroshenko, the third secretary in the information department.

According to Thomas, he and Doroshenko exchanged ideas, and Doroshenko asked if there was anything the embassy could do for Thomas, who told Doroshenko he was interested in peace. Thomas said Doroshenko then told him that the Russians too, were interested in peace. "And then I told him," Thomas recalled, "that I thought this mutual buildup of nuclear weapons had to do with mutual fear between the two nations. And he said yes, he thought that was true. And then I told him that in order to prove that Americans had nothing to ___ of the Russians, I wanted to surrender myself to the Soviet Union. He said, "You don't have to do that," and I said that nevertheless I would. He said, "You cannot, and I said, "I will. I am not leaving. So they had me removed by the police."

Doroshenko confirmed that the meeting took place and confessed to having been puzzled by Thomas' calm refusal to abandon the idea of surrender. "I told him," said Doroshenko, that he would have to go to the chancery first if he wanted to go to the Soviet Union, but he wouldn't move, so what could I do?

The young scriptwriter with the curly hair who had stopped hours before to ask Thomas what he stood for had been preceded by an old man with no hair who was carrying a lot of newspapers under his arms. "What is this about?" he asked. The papers flapped under his arms like wings. Thomas answered: "Wisdom and peace." The old man's mouth fell open. Then he walked away, shaking his head vigorously, and saying, "You never let up do you?"

Thomas thanked him.