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fields in Europe, who came to Washington in the 1930s for one purpose, to urge or maybe demand that the Congress enact into law bonus legislation which would give to the veterans of World War I certain monetary benefits. History tells us that these men who had fought courageously for their country were trampled under the feet of horses, many of them killed and forced off of the public grounds of the Nation's Capital. I wonder if our constitutional principles had been exerted in their support, whether that tragic thing would have come about.
Mr. Watson. It was very sad. I think you understand that we are now in an era where patriotism and the protection of all rights and the love of flag and the love of country is rather an old fuddy-duddy thing. We are in newer sociological concepts where we warp the Constitution to suit our own purpose, rather than letting it apply equally to all citizens, regardless of race or color.
Mr. WHITENER. I wonder if you would agree with this statement, a decision in the Supreme Court where it says this:
The privilege of a citizen of the United States to use the streets and parks for communication, et cetera, views of national questions, may be regulated in the interests of all. It is not absolute, but relative. It must be exercised in subordination to the general comfort and convenience and in consonance with the peace and good order. Mr. Watson. I agree wholeheartedly. That was the case where these people brought in an earlier occasion just a short time ago a so-called poor people's campaign, but of a much smaller nature.
Mr. WHITENER. This case involved a city ordinance requiring permits for public assembly on public streets, highways and parks and public buildings, to authorize the director of public safety, for the purpose of preventing riots, disturbances, or order, to refuse to issue a permit when after investigation of all of the facts and circumstances pertinent to the application he believed it would be proper to refuse to issue a permit.
Mr. WATSON. I agree wholeheartedly. I would like for the committee to look into it. I will try to get a citation I have in mind. Some judge was very critical of a leader here recently who tried to bring the poor people in here. I will get the citation of the case. The judge was critical of the situation and castigated him for playing upon the plight of the poor people, rather than urging them to prepare themselves for education and otherwise to go out and fill some of the jobs we have. There are thousands of jobs that are going unfilled right now. I will try to get this situation for you.
Mr. WHITENER. The First Amendment to the Constitution does not say that government officials have no authority whatever to infringe upon the rights of a citizen or a group of citizens in the use of the public parks and the streets for their own convenience without regard to the convenience of the general public.
Mr. Watson. I agree wholeheartedly with you. I am inclined to believe that it is part of the genius of those who framed the Constitution, and the great Declaration of Independence. I am sure that they never intended for it to be so torn up and disregarded.
Mr. WHITENER. Thank you very much, Mr. Watson.
Mr. WHITENER. We have a statement from the Honorable W. M. Abbitt, of Virginia which we will make a part of the record. He was unfortunately detained and could not be here. We will make his statement a part of the record.
REMARKS OF HON. W. M. ABBITT, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF VIRGINIA Mr. Chairman: I would like to express my appreciation to the Subcommittee for calling the hearing this morning as, in my opinion, the crisis with which we are confronted is still far from resolved and such measures as have been announced publicly leave unanswered many questions which are being raised by the general public with reference to the so-called Poor Peoples Campaign.
In the last several days, there have appeared in the press a number of articles which tend to indicate that an arrangement has been worked out for an orderly handling of the so-called camp-in. However, it is perfectly obvious to me that the District of Columbia government has no intention of taking the steps necessary to contain the crowd which will be coming here in increasing numbers over the next several weeks. They have not acted forthrightly nor have they made it clear that violations of the law will not be countenanced and that proper precautions will be made to see that law and order will be maintained.
If the disorders here last month proved nothing else, they showed conclusively that riotous groups are not afraid of policemen who have been ordered not to shoot nor are they cowed by National Guardsmen or Federal troops who have no ammunition in their guns. I do not know who issued the orders for such unorthodox law enforcement but I would certainly hope that history would not be repeated if trouble breaks out in connection with the campaign getting under way now. District law enforcement officers should not be restrained from taking the necessary steps to prevent the rash of arson, looting, rioting, etc.
I have tried in vain to ascertain from officials of the District government and various other Federal agencies whether any effort has been made to discourage the bringing of thousands of people into the city for this purpose or to in any way attempt to restrain those who are leading the campaign so that they will not feel that they have an open invitation to go any place and do anything they want to while the campaign is going on. Apparently the main focus of the “negotiations” which have been carried on for the last week have been in the nature of working out an accommodation for the march and camp-in and not to circumscribe its limits or goals in any way.
I realize that we in Congress cannot carry out laws-all we can do is put them on the statute books. It is then up to the law enforcement agencies and the Judiciary to see that they are obeyed. I am told that many of those arrested during the recent riots had criminal records and it will be interesting to see what disposition is eventually made of these cases. According to the newspapers, most of the serious crimes committed in the District are committed by people who have been convicted of felonies and are out on probation. Certainly something seems to be wrong with the probation system here when this is allowed.
I believe that the leaders of the so-called Poor Peoples Campaign are prepared to take advantage of the leniency of law enforcement and
welfare agencies in the District of Columbia. Certain statements have been made to the effect that if the campaign does not achieve its objectives within a reasonable time, the participants are prepared to remain here all summer. So far as I have been able to ascertain, I have not heard one word that the present administration downtown has spoken in an endeavor to have the march called off. I am afraid that in the environment of accommodation which now appears to be the adopted policy, we can only expect a long, drawn-out challenge to Federal authority and demonstrations which will either be countenanced by the officials and have to be tolerated by the community or eventually a crack-down will have to be imposed. I would far rather see limits put on the demonstration in advance than to have trouble and later terminate the campaign for the communities security.
I wish to address myself primarily to H.R. 16941 which I introduced on May 1st along with several other members which would authorize an officer or employee of the government of the District of Columbia to require applicants for permits to parade in the District to post a bond to cover certain costs of such parade. As this subcommittee well knows, the House Public Works Committee has ordered reported a bill embodying much the same purposes and providing for certain limitations on the use of government land for camp-ins. I introduced the original bonding bill on November 1, 1967 following the so-called “peace” demonstration at the Pentagon last October and, therefore, I have long felt that some bill of this type is necessary in order to deal with such situations as the one with which we are now confronted. Although the District government has given assurances that adequate police protection will be provided and various other statements from high" officials in the Executive Branch have indicated that they consider they have the situation well in hand, I do not believe that the public has been adequately assured that we have done all that we could under the circumstances.
The so-called campaign is now under way; thousands of demonstrators are converging upon Washington from all over the country and no one seems to have the foggiest notion as to when it will all end and more importantly how it will end.
The press media still overflow with wild and outrageous statements by leaders of the campaign as to what they intend to do, etc. and the general public is still puzzled by the relative silence of those Federal officials who are supposedly in charge. I do not mean to cast undue alarm or to over-emphasize that with which we are confronted but it seems to me that it is abundantly obvious that the District of Columbia faces an unsual emergency, the like of which we have not seen in many years. I do not believe that all the statements which we read in the press and hear spoken over radio and television are responsibly made but I do not believe that we can afford to ignore that which is plainly before us and take the chance that great destruction will be avoided simply because we turn out to be lucky. Such logic defies all of our principles of national defense, law enforcement and detection of crime. If the FBI or any other security organization operated simply on the basis of “waiting to see what happens” or in the hopes that the criminal somehow would turn out not to be as bad as they thought he would, we would have very little protection. It seems to me that far too much reliance has been placed upon the sheer hope that those who
lead the Poor Peoples Campaign will somehow be able to maintain order and that those dissident groups connected with it will somehow turn out to be less vicious than their words have lead us to believe. Federal agencies have bent over backwards to avoid giving any idea that the right of freedom of speech will in any way be abridged and both the general public and the leaders of the campaign have been kept in the dark as to what D-Day will bring.
When I introduced H.R. 16941, it was my feeling that the minimum action which Congress should take would be to require that those who apply for permits to parade in the District should post a bond to cover the cost of any destruction which might result. I believe that the subcommittee should consider the possibility of amending H.R. 16941 to include therein the sense of H.J. Res. 1256 which was introduced by the Virginia delegation in the House. This resolution would place a limitation on the use of park lands of the United States and other public space situated within the District of Columbia and reads as follows:
RESOLVED BY THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IN CONGRESS ASSEMBLED, That, except as may hereafter be provided by Act of Congress, it shall be unlawful to use the Capitol Grounds, the Mall, the Washington Monument Grounds, the grounds around the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, or any other real property of the United States or the District of Columbia within said District for the purpose of camping or erecting thereon any temporary shelter or other structure. This statute shall not exclude establishing campsites and/or recreation areas from time to time, pursuant to an Act of Congress, or the bivouacking of military personnel on public properties in the District of
Columbia. As I understand it, the primary issue before the subcommittee today is whether or not any permit will be issued to allow parades, demonstrations or other assemblages of the campaign now in progresseither in the streets of the District of Columbia or on grounds owned by the Federal government. Apparently there has been an impasse between the Department of the Interior and the District of Columbia government with respect to what type of government action can be taken to limit such assemblages or whether those seeking to parade, demonstrate or have assemblies can in any way be restrained from doing so in the absence of a permit being issued. Apparently the leaders of the demonstration are fully aware that policies and regulations of the departments concerned would preclude the granting of such permits on a regular basis. I understand that Boy Scout groups and other such organizations have from time to time sought the right to assmble on the Mall or to have camping privileges on government lands in various parts of the District of Columbia. Such permission has been denied as a matter of policy and according to my understanding such permission will continue to be denied under the regulations which now exist. The question then arises as to what action the policy authorities and/or the security officers of the National Park Police or any other agency will take if and when violations of the regulations are obviously being made.
I would urge this committee to report out a bill which will forth
rightly and without reservation state what the government will and will not allow and that this be done without delay. We cannot sit around and wait for trouble to come and face the possibility that whatever action we eventually take may be too little and too late.
Mr. WHITENER. At this time we will hear from Commissioner Walter Washington of the District of Columbia.
If you would like, Commissioner, you may ask other officials of the District of Columbia to sit with you.
STATEMENT OF HON. WALTER WASHINGTON, COMMISSIONER, DIS-
Mr. WASHINGTON. Thank you. Mr. WHITENER. If you will identify each of the gentlemen seated with you for the record, please.
Mr. WASHINGTON. Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, on my right here is Dr. Fred Heath, from the Department of Health, who will not testify; Chief Covell from the Metropolitan Police Department; Thomas Appleby, Executive Director of the Redevelopment Land Agency; Dr. Murray Grant, Director, Department of Public Health, with Mr. Fred Heath of the same department; Chief Layton; Mr. Kneipp of the Corporation Counsel Office; and Mr. Dugas, Director of the Department of Licenses and Inspections. These are some of the gentlemen whom we have here, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. WHITENER. Mr. Murphy is not here?
Mr. WASHINGTON. I do not believe he is here today. As a matter of fact, he decided to send someone else, thinking that you would want someone to come up as to these permit procedures. We were not exactly sure of the format of the hearing, but these men are here. Some of them are here because we worked out the agenda with the staff representation in both areas in respect to both bills, the two bills that are
Mr. WHITENER. You may proceed. Mr. WASHINGTON. If there is anyone else that you desire, we will be happy to get him up here.
Mr. WHITENER. We probably will not finish today. But it may be that we will want others later.
Mr. WASHINGTON. We will be very happy to get them here.
Mr. Chairman, we have come to give you our views with respect to the two bills that I understand are before us. One is H.R. 16941, and the other is H.R. 16948.