Concepcion Picciotto, et. al.                             
          vs.                         Civil Action 99cv02113 (HHK)
                                                                                                     F I L E D
United States of America, et. al.                 AUG 0 9 1999
                                                     CLERK, U.S. DISTRICT COURT 
                                                        DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA


Before the court is the motion of plaintiffs for a Temporary Restraining Order Plaintiffs are three individuals who state that for 21 years they have maintained a 24 hour a day, 365 day a year, vigil for the global elimination of nuclear weapons. 1/ Plaintiffs seek a court order that would prohibit the National Park Service from forcing them to relocate their vigil' from its present location directly in front of the White House in Lafayette Park. The vigil is in an area that the National Park Service and law enforcement personnel wish to use as a buffer zone between demonstrations sponsored by the Knights of Freedom Nationalist Party and the Shalom International, organizations with extremely antagonistic points of view that have permits to carry on their demonstrations in Lafayette Park at the same time.

1/ The vigil consists of the physical presence of the plaintiffs and four signs, 4x4 feet wide and six feet high.


Plaintiffs' principle argument is that the forced relocation of their vigil would violate their rights under the First Amendment.

Having considered plaintiffs motion, the arguments of plaintiffs and counsel for defendants at a hearing, the court concludes, that the motion should be 2/ A party seeking injunctive relief bears the burden of showing, inter alia, that he or she will suffer irreparable injury and that the issuance of injunctive relief would not be against the public interest. Foundation on Economic Trends v. Heckler, 756 F.2d 143, 151 (D.C. Cir. 1985) (citing Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission v. Holiday Tours. Inc., 559 F.2d 841, 843-44 (D.C. Cir. 1977)). The court is of view that plaintiffs have not demonstrated that they will suffer irreparable injury because it appears that plaintiffs are able to maintain their vigil in Lafayette Park within 30 feet of its customary location. Requiring plaintiffs to move such a short distance for a short period of time (approximately 18 hours) only minimally implicates First Amendment concerns and does no violence to legal principles which permit limited content neutral regulation of expression. See United States v. O'Brien, 391 U.S. 367, 377 (a content-neutral regulation is justified if "it is within the constitutional power of the Government, if it furthers an important or substantial governmental interest, and if the incidental restriction on alleged First Amendment freedoms is no greater than essential to the furtherance of that interest.")

2/ The court adopts by reference the rationale it expressed in open court at the hearing on plaintiffs' motion.


Plaintiffs also have failed to show that preventing the Park Service from creating and securing a buffer zone between the permitted demonstrations--a zone free of the presence of anyone but law enforcement personnel-- would serve the public interest. In this regard, the court believes that it should defer somewhat to the judgment of officials who have expertise in the handling of potentially volatile demonstrations and who have concluded that a secure buffer zone is a prudent and necessary way to ensure public safety and good order

Finally, plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that they are likely to prevail on their claim that the Park Services' actions violate 36 C.F.R. §1.5 (b). This provision states that "[e]xcept in emergency situations, a closure, designation, use or activity restriction . . . which is of a nature, magnitude and duration that will result in a significant alteration in the public use pattern of the park [] . . . shall published at home making in the federal register." 36 C.F.R. §1.5 (b) (1993). It is apparent that defendants' actions will not violate this provision because the closure of a limited area of the Park will be temporary and will not significantly alter the Park's public use pattern.

Accordingly, it is this 9th day of August, 1999, hereby

ORDERED that plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order is denied.

(signed) Henry M. Kennedy
Henry H. Kennedy, Jr.
United States District Judge