- The Washington Times - Monday, October 10, 2011

Protesters occupying Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue after their permit expired Monday accepted a deal from U.S. Park Police allowing them to stay an extra four months, averting a potential clash and keeping alive the anti-war and anti-corporate demonstrations taking place across the country.

Police extended the offer to the “October 2001/Stop the Machine” group shortly after a 2 p.m. deadline for protesters to remove their tents, sleeping bags and other gear from the plaza, just blocks from the White House.

The sides negotiated privately for several hours on conditions, including that protesters share the plaza with other groups and remove all of their tents except the ones for first-aid and other essentials.

Organizer Tarak Kauff said the deal essentially was embraced when it was offered and that having the roughly 200 protesters vote was a formality.

“It was a no brainer,” said Mr. Kauff, adding that protesters are willing to share with such groups as those participating in the dedication this weekend of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial. However, he was unsure how long protesters would stay.

Margaret Flowers, another organizer, called the offer a “transformative moment.”

“And I mean that 100 percent,” she said.

Park Police could not be reached to confirm the deal, which reportedly is not official.

Lacy MacAuley — a spokeswoman for “Occupy D.C.” who has been staying in McPherson Square for several days — said Monday that the group has no permit but has been in constant contact with the National Park Service, which has not asked protesters to leave.

The protests in the District are similar to ones taking place across the country, most notably the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York City’s Zuccotti Park that started Sept. 17. Roughly 700 protesters were arrested Oct. 1 after they filed onto the Brooklyn Bridge and partially blocked traffic.

On Monday afternoon, the protesters in Freedom Plaza appeared ready to be arrested for staying after their permit had expired Sunday.

“Our plan is to stay,” organizer David Swanson said. “If they move us out by force, we urge others to replace us in greater numbers.”

To be sure, the group even made a makeshift baggage check so those arrested could store their gear.

Organizers said later in the day that they politely declined when asked if they wanted to be arrested to perhaps bring the protest to conclusion.

“Being arrested over a permit is not what we’re fighting about,” organizer Kevin Zeese said into a microphone. “We’re fighting about ending wars … .”

The protests started Thursday and have been largely peaceful except for Saturday when the National Air and Space Museum was closed because anti-war demonstrators swarmed the building on the Mall.

They were protesting a drone exhibit, and security guards used pepper spray to repel them, sickening a number of protesters.

Smithsonian spokesman John Gibbons said 100 to 200 people arrived at about 3 p.m. When a security guard told them they could not bring in signs, he apparently was held by demonstrators, Mr. Gibbons said. A second guard used pepper spray on at least one person and the crowd dispersed.

The crowd included demonstrators from October 2011/Stop the Machine and some affiliated with Occupy D.C.

Among the other groups protesters in Freedom Plaza will have to accommodate as part of the deal is the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which is scheduled to hold its annual fundraising walk Saturday.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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