- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2012

The noon deadline Monday for Occupy D.C. protesters to stop camping in McPherson Square and another federal park passed without confrontation, with the rancorous group draping a gigantic tarp over a statue of Civil War Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson, then dancing and playing music into the twilight under the watchful eye of police.

The roughly 100 protesters named the tarp the “the tent of dreams” and chanted, “Let us sleep so we can dream.”

The National Park Service posted fliers Friday telling protesters at McPherson and nearby Freedom Plaza that they could maintain a 24-hour vigil but could no longer camp overnight.

At a midday news conference, U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. David Schlosser said enforcement had begun but police “seized nothing and made no arrests.” Some protesters were packing up their gear to move it off-site to comply with the enforcement order.

“We have some compliance already,” Sgt. Schlosser said as a National Park Service dump truck was parked in the background. “Sleeping is just part of the [no] camping regulations.”

Sgt. Schlosser said officers would be looking for such camping-related items as “sleeping bags, teddy bears and kitchen equipment” and that the tarp over the statue would be “dealt with appropriately.”

Temporary structures such as tents will be allowed as long as a flap remains open, officials said.

“Occupy D.C. is not going anywhere, no matter if we lose the park,” said protester Sara Shaw, 24.

The groups arrived at McPherson and Freedom about four months ago as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement directed at perceived social inequality and government and corporate greed.

Unlike similar camps across the country, Occupy D.C. has remained, in part because of the mild winter and a low-key enforcement approach.

“We are telling the Park Service and the world that we have a right to be here,” Occupier Caty McClure, 24, said Monday before a large gathering of police officers, reporters and lunchtime onlookers as temperatures climbed from freezing to the mid-40s.

The fliers were posted days after Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis told GOP congressional leaders that the agency no longer would tolerate camping in the federal park.

Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, questioned whether the protesters had been allowed to stay as a result of political pressure.

D.C. officials took the largely low-key, non-confrontational approach toward the protesters and their encampment, but nearly 100 arrests have been made since the protesters arrived. Protests created havoc on Capitol Hill and one afternoon essentially closed down K Street Northwest, the power corridor of Washington lobbying.

Officials over the past few weeks have become increasingly upset about the cost of monitoring the encampments as well as unsanitary kitchens, more rats and trash, particularly around McPherson Square.

Sgt. Schlosser said the camping issue “goes directly to health and nuisance abatement.”

On Sunday, Park Service officers used a Taser on a protester who was upset about the crackdown. The incident was recorded and posted on YouTube.

Mr. Issa said he is pleased that the concerns of local leaders have been heard and called the Park Service’s enforcement of the law “appropriate and overdue.”



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