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Soliciting at Airport

May 11, 1997

Barry Fisher's utopian vision of LAX as a public forum is misleading (Opinion, May 4). First, under the new ordinance passed by the City Council and signed by the mayor, free speech is protected. The various groups and cults are not restricted from distributing literature and speaking about their "causes."

The real issue is the safety and well-being of the public. More than 5 million people a year use Terminal Two at LAX. At our peak traveling times, the airline ticket-holder is faced with no less than seven layers of panhandlers. These panhandlers represent themselves as "missionaries," "nurses" and "clerics." They prey on the foreign traveler who is not well-versed in the language, culture or monetary system of the U.S. Make no mistake, there is a tremendous amount of money involved.

The harassment of employees, passengers and crew members is a daily occurrence. During the five years that I have managed Terminal Two, I have seen all forms of intimidation and deception, including criminal activity.

Recently, one of the "missionaries" was interviewed by a TV reporter. She was not a missionary and hadn't the slightest idea where the money was going.

WILLIAM J. MALL JR.

Executive Director

LAX TWO Corp.

Los Angeles

* Fisher's comments about free speech at LAX could not be more off the mark. Where he sees a public space for the exchange of ideas, I and every weary traveler passing through that miserable place want the stressful experience to be as brief as possible.

There is ample opportunity to exchange ideas and ask for donations in the press, the Internet, on college campuses, talk radio and dozens of more appropriate venues.

MARSHALL THOMPSON

Los Angeles

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