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Defying The Capitol Hill Sledding Ban In The Name Of Winter Fun


Congress had a snow day today. But the U.S. Capitol Police were ready to enforce Title II of the United States Code Section 1963. You know, the one from April 1876 - the one that says you can't use Capitol Hill as a playground. And today, with a fresh blanket of snow, that meant no sledding. But as NPR's Art Silverman found out, some citizens chose to defy the law.

ART SILVERMAN, BYLINE: They came with a sense of righteousness and their sleds.

PETER RUFFLAND: Watch out below.

SILVERMAN: Peter Ruffland came four blocks from his home to the slope behind the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill. As far as he's concerned, this is his neighborhood sledding hill. With eight inches of snow predicted, Washington schools and the federal government were closed. So out came the sleds and a lot of cops to remind folks that it was illegal to use sleds here.

TIM KREPP: OK, Megan, want to go on the sled?

SILVERMAN: Tim Krepp launched his seven-year-old daughter Megan down the hill.

KREPP: Ready? One, two, three - go. Oh, we're stuck. Alright.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Let's see how many cameramen we can hit.

SILVERMAN: Like many other things in the city, the sledding turned into a media circus.

KREPP: We've been sledding here for many years now. We came in 2009 - no issues. This is kind of a silly problem to have. And we just want to go sledding here.

SILVERMAN: Why all the attention? Well, yesterday anticipating the big snowfall, D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton asked Capitol Police to temporarily waive the ban on sledding.


ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Yeah, I haven't given up hope, of course. They said they can't waiver. Well, they can waiver. The regulations allow them to waiver. But I must say I'm perfectly satisfied if they go back to doing what they have done now for decades - simply don't enforce it.

SILVERMAN: And it turns out that's exactly what the police were doing today.


SILVERMAN: Tim Krepp with his sled and Capitol Police Lieutenant Eric Graves with his badge managed to keep the confrontation to a minimum.

KREPP: Well, I appreciate that. And I think that's a reasonable - a reasonable concern here.

ERIC GRAVES: I understand that, sir. The only thing I can do is state the - state the Capitol traffic regulations, OK?

KREPP: OK, I understand the regulations. Thanks for letting me know. But we're going to go do a little more sledding here.

GRAVES: Alright, sir.

KREPP: Alright, thank you very much.

GRAVES: Thank you.

SILVERMAN: Capitol Police say they will continue to review the regulations. But for now, the ban remains in place. Art Silverman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Art Silverman has been with NPR since 1978. He came to NPR after working for six years at a daily newspaper in Claremont, New Hampshire.

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