AAC is an ad-hoc group of individuals committed to highly visible and effective public
education for alternatives to the death penalty through nonviolent direct action.

 


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SAMPLE LETTER TO COURT POLICE


(note that this is a letter from 2003, but the letter this year will be similar, and it is expected that the rules and legal limitations will be the same.)

Generally, the Abolitionist Action Committee enjoys cooperative relations with the Supreme Court Police. They know who we are and some of those among them who have been around for a few years have actually told us that they look forward to us coming. That said, there are regulations that must be followed. For the last several years we have sent a letter like the following. Please review it and you will understand the rules:

This letter will be updated in early June 2008 as we
re-negotiate for this year's Fast & Vigil.

19 June 2003
 
Lt. J. L. Peebles
SCOTUS Police
U.S. Supreme Court
Via E-Mail
 
Dear Lt. Peebles,
 
I hope this finds you well. Thank you for your phone call today. As the death penalty has NOT YET been abolished, the Abolitionist Action Committee will hold its 10th Annual Fast & Vigil at the US Supreme Court beginning just before midnight on June 28.
 
Please find our general schedule and additional information on our web page at www.abolition.org.
 
Specifically, the exact schedule is at www.abolition.org/starvin13.schedule06.html. Please note that all currently scheduled activities are pretty much set and are not expected to change, however it is possible that additional specific activities may be added at any point. In any case, rest assured that you have nothing to worry about from us.
 
As always, we are a peaceful, nonviolent group of activists. We plan NO civil disobedience at this event, and we ask all of our brothers and sisters in the anti-death penalty movement to join us in this pledge. Again, you may expect no trouble from us during this event.
 
BASED ON OUR DISCUSSION THIS MORNING, YOU AFFIRM THAT SINCE LAST YEAR AT THIS TIME THERE HAVE BEEN *NO* ADJUSTMENTS TO REGULATIONS FIVE OR SIX, WHICH GOVERN DEMONSTRATIONS AND SIGNS ON THE SIDEWALKS. Please CALL me at 561-371-5204 if any adjustments are made between now and June 28.
 
REGARDING SIGNS
 
As we discussed, our signs have been determined by Lt. Dolan and others in past years to be fully within compliance of the regulations. As you can see by looking at the following photos:
Note: Click on any of the photos in this communication to see an enlargement
 

 
The signs are constructed of standard cloth banner materials, affixed to wooden frames (supports) constructed of standard 1x1's, which as you know are actually 3/4ths of an inch at their widest point. None of the hardware used to assemble the frames protrudes from the frames. The dimensions of the banners are approximately 4'x10', and the frames are slightly larger, with longer verticals to help keep the signs off the ground. As these signs are "hand carried," that is, there is always a person holding them, there is no restriction on size.
 
REGARDING THE "Hand Carrying" OF SIGNS
 
This has been a matter of concern for us each year and we would like this year to avoid the hassles encountered in past years. There have been varying definitions of what it means to "carry" a sign. Some officers seem to want sign holders to be always moving. Others are content to have the activists always holding the sign, and occasionally shifting position. For some officers that shift can be just a few inches, for others it must be measured in feet. Some officers insist that the signs must always be held aloft, never touching the ground. Others are content to allow the activists to rest the "feet" of the sign on the ground. Invariably, by the second day this all gets sorted out and we end up with the following:
 
Activists may rest the sign on the ground, but must always be the sole means of the sign standing erect. Activists must shift the position of the sign every few minutes. At no point shall activists impede pedestrian traffic along the sidewalk or access to or from the plaza or building, or cause any safety or security hazard. Activists may choose, at times, to support themselves by the use of a chair, but in any case will always maintain complete control and possession of the sign.
 
See examples of such behavior in the following photos:
 

 
It would be great if we can reach consensus on this matter ahead of time, please. Thank you.
 
REGARDING TABLES
 
The tables we use are standard 8' banquet tables loaned to us by a local church. We have used these tables in the following layout consistently for the past seven years, with no problems or complaints from your agency. As you can see in the photos below, the table layout has two tables side by side, and one table centered behind them. We use standard folding chairs. We set up a few feet in front of the first marble step so as to stay well out of the general traffic pattern. We set up as close to the center of the steps so as to be in proximity to the court and the hideous lie carved into the front of the building, as is our right. At no time is anyone blocked or inconvenienced in terms of their access to the plaza. We do affix signs or banners to the tables, and we do use the space underneath the tables for activists to leave their personal items, as well as additional supplies of the materials we are distributing to passers by. You will note that we position a large tarp underneath the table in a position so that it may be quickly unfurled and wrapped around the table when the rain and wind arrive. Again, in my seven years of organizing this effort, we have never had a problem or complaint from your agency regarding this set-up.
 
The material on the tables consists of printed matter for distribution to interested parties, petitions for people to sign, as well as examples of the materials we have available to people in our headquarters across the street at the United Methodist Building. NO SALES, DONATIONS, OR SOLICITATIONS ARE MADE ON THE SIDEWALK. If a person asks how they may support our work, they are informed that the law prohibits any financial exchange in that location, and they are escorted to our headquarters across the street. This system has worked to everyone's satisfaction for the past seven years.
See the following photos of the tables:
 

 
and ESPECIALLY the following photo where you can see just just how unobtrusive this set-up is.
 

 
REGARDING SPECIAL EVENTS / NOISE
 
There will be several occasions during our presence where we will have formal programs which will include the use of amplification by battery powered public address mechanisms which may be bullhorns, or speakers set upon stands of various sizes. Because we are renting these items it is impossible for me to give you specific dimensions. HOWEVER, nothing that we will do, bring, or use will exceed that which we have done in the past, and no SCOTUS police officer has ever complained about any such items. ALSO, nothing that we will do, bring, or use, will exceed that which is brought and used by the media when they set up their microphones, lights, platforms, umbrellas, and sometimes even tent-like structures. When we do use amplification, it will be temporary - for the specific events listed in the schedule referenced above - notably the rally at the noon hour and the rally in the evening on June 30.
 
We understand that at no point are amplification devices to be directed at the US Supreme Court building.
 
To the left is an example of the P/A and at our noon rally last, and a selection of photos at the noon rally from the previous year (2001) can be seen below:
 

 

 
Lt. Peebles, it would be most helpful if you would affirm receipt of this letter by return e-mail, or by fax to 561-743-2500.
 
If you have any questions, please contact me at 800-973-6548. I'll be on the ground in DC by 11am, June 27th. Feel free to call me on my cell phone at 561-371-5204 should there be any matters you wish to discuss at any time during the course of this event. Everyone involved in the event has been informed of the regulations and will receive a copy of this letter. They are also informed that I am the liaison between the event and the SCOTUS Police.
 
I would ask that all officers working over the course of our four day event be informed in advance of our presence, and the understandings of our working procedures. We look forward to continued cooperative and friendly relations. On behalf of the Abolitionist Action Committee,
 
In Peace,
Abraham J. Bonowitz
Director, CUADP, on behalf of the AAC
 


Abolitionist Action Committee (AAC)
P.O. Box 89
Ghent, NY 12075
800-973-6548   aac@abolition.org

   

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