Park Police Raid OccupyDC, Dismantle Tents of Dreams

Written by Carl T. Hall. Posted in News, Politics

Tagged: ,

Published on February 04, 2012 with No Comments

Police in Washington, D.C., began sweeping through Occupy DC's encampment at McPherson Square near the White House on Saturday morning, removing camping gear section by section. At least six arrests were reported but the police crackdown appeared to be peaceful for the most part, at least through mid-day. Photos by Kat Anderson.

By Carl T. Hall and Kat Anderson, reporting from Washington, D.C.

February 4, 2012

Washington police rousted OccupyDC activists early Saturday morning at McPherson Square, enforcing a ban on overnight camping.  At least 6 were arrested and one person was tased.

Section by section, park police spent the day removing camping gear and shelters that showed evidence of overnight sleeping.  A large blue tarp that had been draped over the pedestal of the General James McPherson statue at the center of the park was removed as police in riot gear formed a protective circle.

A few people at the center of the park hurled profanity at the cops and proclaimed that police tactics went too far.

The police had distributed copies of a notice stating that while camping gear would be removed following a court order last week, other equipment for First Amendment activity would be allowed to remain.  Yet, some people said the cops took “vigil gear” as well as sleeping bags.

Brian, age 35, who declined to give his last name, sat guard over a pile of camping equipment on the sidewalk along 15th Street adjacent to the square.  “I would say tensions have gotten much higher,” he said, complaining that police on horses in riot gear were not needed to deal with “peaceful protesters.”

Brian, 35, who declined to give his last name, guarded a pile of camping gear on the sidewalk next to McPherson Square in Washington, after police began a crackdown against overnight camping Saturday morning. Although at least six people were arrested, no violence was reported as authorities went through the park removing tents and debris. A church offered to store the equipment, but it was unclear where the people without overnight accommodations would go next.

Rich Coffman remained in his customary place at the corner of the park as a friend sat next to him quietly singing and playing guitar.  Police had not yet made it to his section of the park but were not far away.

“It’s still peaceful here,” he said.  “I was woken up by the light of the police helicopter.  There were locks around the portapotties so I couldn’t take a whiz.  I thought, ‘This is worse than my ex-wife’ — actually I don’t have an ex-wife.  Make it ex-girlfriend.  But ex-wife sounds better.”

Rich Coffman, 42, of Texas sat in his customary place Saturday at the edge of Occupy DC's McPherson Square camp as a friend played music. He said it was "still peaceful" despite a crackdown against overnight camping that began earlier that morning. Police in riot gear weren't far away and it was unclear where out-of-town protesters, such as Coffman, would go next if the Capital no longer welcomes overnight Occupy campouts. Police said 24-hour protest vigils would be allowed but overnight sleeping in the park will not be tolerated after a federal court decision last week.

The Washington Post reported that 4 people were arrested for refusing to leave an area being cleaned up.  A spokesman for the US Capitol Park Police denied it was an eviction, calling the closure “nuisance abatement.”  The protesters were allowed to conduct 24-hour vigils so long as they did not camp overnight.

“Despite the show of force, relations between authorities and protesters remained largely peaceful,” the newspaper reported in a story updated at 11:35 a.m. local time. “When police swept into the camp before sunrise, protesters didn’t resist but shouted, ‘Wake up!’ and chanted.”

It is unclear where the Occupy activists would go next for overnight sleeping.  A local church had offered to store their equipment.

More Photos

Protesters removed tents from McPherson Square on Saturday and began packing them for transport on the sidewalk along 15th street next to the park, as police enforced a ban on overnight camping by Occupy DC.

Authorities distributed a handbill Saturday at McPherson Square, scene of an Occupy protest encampment that has been drawing activists from around the country, detailing plans to enforce a camping ban and warning of arrests if people resisted.

A large blue tarp -- dubbed the "Tent of Dreams" by Occupy DC activists -- was removed from the pedestal beneath a statue of General James B. McPherson, namesake of McPherson Square near the White House. The DC occupiers have been staging a round-the-clock protest here since October, but a federal judge's decision last week set the stage for police to move in Saturday to enforce a ban on overnight sleeping in the park. It was unclear where the protest might go next, but a large multi-city action on March 30 is in planning stages.

An Occupy DC protester headed away from McPherson Square on Saturday as police swept through the park, enforcing a ban on overnight camping. Although six people were reportedly arrested, authorities reported no violent clashes. A local church offered to store camping gear but it was unclear where people without local accommodations -- including a large number of out-of-town activists already rousted from police crackdowns in other cities -- would go next. The authorities said McPherson Square can have 24-hour protest vigils and other First Amendment activity, but insisted that sleeping overnight there won't be tolerated any longer.

No Comments

Comments for Park Police Raid OccupyDC, Dismantle Tents of Dreams are now closed.