Police Take No Action to Enforce No-Camping Rule at Occupy D.C. Location

January 31, 2012 - 7:27 AM

occupy dc

Occupy D.C. protesters in McPherson Square on Monday, Jan. 30, 2012. (CNSNews.com)

(CNSNews.com) – Occupy D.C. protesters at McPherson Square were ready and willing to defy a no-camping order by the National Park Service on Monday, but they didn’t need to. A noon deadline for enforcement came and went with no action from police.

The demonstrators erected a huge tarp – a “dream tent” -- over the statue of General James B. McPherson at the center of the park in anticipation of a clash with police that never materialized.

During the day Monday, several police officers patrolled the perimeter of the park, but when asked by CNSnews.com when they would begin enforcing the no-camping order, they refused to comment.

Last week, the National Park Service said it would begin enforcing a regulation that prohibits camping on public lands – including McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza -- at 12 p.m. on Monday. Sleeping bags and cooking materials were supposed to be removed from the parks.

Occupy DC

Occupy D.C. protesters drape a huge tarp over a statue in McPherson Square in Washington on Jan. 30, 2012. (CNSnews.com)

Protesters were warned that refusing to comply with the regulation would result in arrests.  Tents would be allowed as temporary structures on the condition that the flaps remain open at all times.

On Sunday, one D.C. protester was tased and arrested after removing fliers from Park Police that warned protesters about the impending enforcement of the no-camping order.

As the deadline approached, protesters assembled a giant tarp draped over the statue of Gen. McPherson, a union civil war general, as Occupiers gathered inside chanted, “We are the 99 percent,” and “This is what Democracy looks like.”  Occupiers named it “the Tent of Dreams.”

Throughout the day Monday, protesters waved signs, played music and chanted as about a dozen police watched from the outskirts of the park.

The District of Columbia is one of the last havens for ‘Occupy’ protesters, who have been evicted from their locations in cities across the country.  New York police cleared Zuccotti Park, home of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, in November, resulting in hundreds of arrests.  Most recently, protesters were disbanded in Oakland, Calif., resulting in 400 arrests after protests turned violent at City Hall.

In Washington, the protesters have been camped out in McPherson Square since Oct. 1 without a permit.

Last week, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) held a hearing focusing on public health and safety issues of the encampment at McPherson Square.  Reports of rat infestation at the park led D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray to call on the NPS to relocate the protesters to Freedom Plaza in order to clean and restore McPherson Square.

At the subcommittee hearing, Republicans questioned allowing the occupiers to stay overnight at the parks since an NPS regulation prohibits camping on public lands.

“I find it curious tourists can’t pitch a tent in McPherson Square for fun, but if they’re pitching a camp in protest of fun then the National Park Service would welcome them,” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said.

The NPS denied any political influence in allowing the protests to continue.

NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis told lawmakers, “We are about to enforce the camping regulations, but we are not evicting the Occupiers under any circumstances, unless there is an emergency.