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UNITED STATES v. SEMPLE

December 8, 1988

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
STEPHEN SEMPLE, a/k/a SUNRISE S. HARMONY, Defendant


Louis F. Oberdorfer, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: OBERDORFER

LOUIS F. OBERDORFER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

 I.

 Defendant Stephen Semple, a/k/a Sunrise S. Harmony, is before the Court on an Information charging violation of 36 C.F.R. § 7.96(i) (1). He is one of a small group of individuals maintaining over the last several years a self-styled "vigil" in Lafayette Park, a site authoratively identified and protected as appropriate for peaceful demonstrations on public and religious issues. See 36 C.F.R § 7.96(g); A Quaker Action Group v. Morton, 170 U.S. App. D.C. 124, 516 F.2d 717, 725 (D.C. Cir. 1975) (holding that Lafayette Park "constitute[s] a unique situs for the exercise of First Amendment rights"). Although demonstrations are generally permissible, National Park Service regulations prohibit "camping" in Lafayette Park. See id. at § 7.96(i) (1). These regulations define camping as

 
the use of park land for living accommodation purposes such as sleeping activities, or making preparations to sleep (including the laying down of bedding for the purpose of sleeping), or storing personal belongings, or making any fire, or using any tents or shelter or other structure or vehicle for sleeping or doing any digging or earth breaking or carrying on cooking activities.

 Id.

 In 1984, one of their number claimed, not without reason, a need to know the parameters of their rights under the First Amendment in Lafayette Park and their duties under the several federal regulations relating, for example, to camping in national parks and filed a suit for damages, declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. Thomas v. United States, Civil Action No. 84-3552-LFO (D.D.C. Nov. 21, 1984). While granting a motion of the United States to dismiss in that case, this Court noted, among other things, that:

 
Over the course of their vigil, plaintiffs and federal law enforcement officials have engaged in an ongoing confrontation arising from plaintiffs' exercise of First Amendment rights.
 
. . . .
 
It is undisputed that plaintiffs have been repeatedly warned, cited, arrested, and convicted for violating one or another of these regulations. Plaintiff Thomas alone has been tried for such infractions in this Court at least a dozen times since 1982.

 Thomas v. United States, memo. op. at 3-4, 696 F. Supp. 702 (D.D.C. 1988).

 Defendant himself had been convicted by Magistrate Arthur L. Burnett on November 17, 1987, for violating the camping regulation, and that conviction was affirmed by this Court on December 22, 1987. In that case, defendant took the stand and acknowledged on cross-examination that he was in Lafayette Park almost 24 hours a day. On the basis of that admission, this Court affirmed the Magistrate's conviction of defendant for camping, for that admission proved beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant was guilty of use of park land for living accommodation purposes such as sleeping activities. See Order filed this day in United States v. Semple, Crim. No. 87-0466-LFO (D.D.C. 1988). The 1987 case came before the Court for sentencing on February 11 and June 8, 1988. In an effort to conform defendant's conduct to the requirements of the regulation and in consideration of the apparent futility of confinement as a means of achieving conformity by defendant and those engaged with him in his "vigil" in Lafayette Park, this Court, on February 11, 1988, placed defendant on probation on special conditions, *fn1" as slightly modified on June 8, 1988, requiring that:

 
1. While in Lafayette Park, defendant may have in his possession only the following items of personal property, in addition to literature used in the course of his First Amendment activity: one raincoat, one umbrella, one coat, other clothing necessary for one person during one twenty-four hour period, a camera, a tape recorder, two blankets, one thermos, toilet articles, a supply of food no greater than that required for one person during one twenty-four hours period, and an amount of plastic necessary to cover these articles in inclement weather. . . .;
 
2. While in Lafayette Park, defendant shall not have in his possession a sleeping bag, tarpaulin, duffel bag, or any other item suitable for the storage ...

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