- The Washington Times - Monday, January 16, 2012

Occupy D.C. on Tuesday will spend its first day of action in more than a month with a scheduled rally on Capitol Hill, an event organizers have promised will draw thousands of supporters and could determine the movement’s ongoing viability.

Organizers are hoping the rally will jump-start the Occupy movement, which lost momentum and members with the holidays and the colder weather.

“For the past couple months, people have been concerned that the Occupy camp situation is very fluid,” said 46-year-old Robert Brune, an early Occupy D.C. member. “I think there’s always a worry.”

The Occupy movement started as a protest against what participants saw as unfair practices by Wall Street and the federal government and to argue that only 1 percent of the population controls most of the country’s wealth.

However, Occupy D.C. over the past few months has protested against the Guantanamo detentions and the power K Street lobbyists have on Washington.

According to the Occupy D.C. website, the purpose of Tuesday’s rally is “to warn Congress that the 99 percent are upset with them.”

“Most of the members of Congress are totally out of touch with the country,” said Occupy member Sam Jewler, 23. “I think that’s why so many people are dissatisfied with the government: We’re not getting the democracy we learned about in our textbooks.”

Though the focus of the rally is for members to have their concerns heard in the halls of Congress, Mr. Brune said a demonstration that leads to arrests is a risk, considering that D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray and others want their three-month stay in McPherson Square to end.

“I don’t think anybody is planning to provoke an eviction,” Mr. Brune said. “Everyone will be encouraged to be peaceful. Maybe I’m being optimistic.”

Organizers have a permit to rally from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and say the day will include demonstrations, speakers and musical performances.

Marc Smith, a former Occupy Wall Street member and now an Occupy D.C. resident, said hundreds of people are coming to the District for the rally but the numbers “are the least of our worries.”

Mr. Smith, 23, will be in charge of maintaining a live-stream feed of the activities.

“The thing about Occupy is you never know what to expect,” he said. “I’d be surprised if there was not a single arrest.”

Park Police are responsible for issues at the federally owned McPherson Square. Capitol Police handle activities on the U.S. Capitol grounds.

A handful of standoffs with police — notably a human blockade at K Street Northwest and the building of a wooden structure — have resulted in more than 100 Occupy D.C. arrests.

Mr. Gray says he is concerned about the increasing rat population around the tent-filled McPherson Square, which no longer has food-service operations and relies on donated prepared food.

On Friday, Mr. Gray, a Democrat, demanded in a letter that “at a minimum” the McPherson camp be consolidated into neighboring Freedom Plaza along Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest to “allow for the elimination of the rat infestation, clean up, and restoration” of the downtown park.

Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, told the Interior Department — which oversees the National Park Service — that he would use “compulsory processes” if the agency fails to answer questions by Jan. 24 about why it allowed the park to be damaged.

• Meredith Somers can be reached at msomers@washingtontimes.com.

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