UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
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