National Park Service workers, wielding hammers and crowbars, ripped down giant anti-nuclear signs in Lafayette Park across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House today as dozens of tourists, community activists and street people watched.
The sign dismantling, in line with new Park Service regulations that limit the size and number of placards that can be set up in the park, brought out activists both for and against the action.
Robert Dorrough of Washington, D.C., was arrested after he tried to stop workers from dismantling the signs.
"It's a real, real slam against the First Amendment," said one man, identifying himself as a concerned citizen.
Removed was a 16-foot-high structure that doubled as one woman's home. A demonstrator pleased with the new regulations jeered, "I hope she didn't have a mortgage on it."
Other signs--most of them criticizing President Reagan's defense policies--also saw their last days in full view of the White House. Dozens of passers-by looked on as the plywood structures tumbled into heaps on the ground, some revealing bare spots in the grassy park.
Since about 1980, the area had become a haven for anti-nuclear demonstrators.
"This is just a pacifier to the public," said Concepcion Picciotto, who has maintained a 24-hour anti-nuclear vigil at the park since 1981.
"Mr. Reagan has in mind to get this street (Pennsylvania Avenue) closed to traffic," she said. "All this so it will be a fortress that separates the people from the government. There is the Berlin Wall, the China Wall--this is the Reagan Wall."
Others don't agree.
"They (large signs) detract from the beauty of the city," said passer-by Charles Krohn, a defense consultant from Burke, Va. "I tend to listen to the understatement, not the overstatement."