Tuesday, Jan 31, 2012, 9:15 am
Occupy D.C. Holds Ground, Defies Eviction
The large, blue tarp set up in McPherson Square has the words "tent of dreams" graffitied on the side, and there was a time as the protesters faced imminent eviction from the National Park Service that it seemed dreams were all the protesters were running on. (photo by @Occupy_DC)
A flier released Friday by the NPS said it would be enforcing regulations prohibiting camping and the use of temporary structures for camping in the square and Freedom Plaza, adding individuals may be subject to arrest and having their property seized as evidence.
Between the two Occupy sites, more than 80 arrests have occurred, and Carol Johnson, a Park Service spokeswoman, tells MSNBC that some of those arrests included charges of public urination, drunkenness, assault and drug use.
Washington Post describes the scene:
On Monday at McPherson Square, protesters pondered this question. “Evicted from our home by the banks. Evicted from our tents by the police. There is no safe place to rest,” read the side of one spray-painted tent.
A good many protesters opted not to remove their stuff at all. As the noon deadline set by the police approached and then passed, the stuff that had enabled the protesters to endure a winter in Washington — the fox-den hidey-holes of cold-weather whatnot — remained defiantly inside tents. To the office dwellers who came to the park to see what would transpire as the deadline approached, the site looked little changed from the encampment that had sprung up in early October. It was muddy and cluttered. Protesters rallied at the center of the square, engaging in call-and-response chants, and digging in their heels for a stand-off with police that, as of mid-afternoon, had not occurred (the mood was reportedly less raucous and more zen over at Freedom Plaza, the site of Washington’s second Occupy encampment).
Early Tuesday, the deadline passed for the U.S. Park Police to begin enforcing a ban on camping in the two parks. Up until recently, the Occupiers have been permitted to stay in the parks under a Park Service interpretation that considered the camps a "24-hour vigil."
A protester at McPherson Square was tasered and arrested on Sunday. In the video of the incident, the man asks, "Why are you coming at me?" The officers don't respond and keep advancing upon him. The man then says, "I have done nothing wrong" before he begins to struggle, though his hands remain in the air. In response, an officer shoots him in the back with a taser.
In theory, tasers are supposed to be used only to suppress violent criminals. The man in the video did not strike officers (in fact his hands remain up in the air the entire time). He was resisting arrest, but the officers were refusing to tell him why he was being arrested.
It will be interesting to see if a longer video emerges later, showing whatever happened beforehand that led to the officers hunting down the man in the red shirt. Someone in the video clip can be heard shouting at the officers before the arrest, but it's unclear if it's the same individual.
Meanwhile, protesters at the two parks remain resolute. After the eviction deadline passed, protesters gathered under the Tent of Dreams to sing, talk, and play Scrabble.
Allison Kilkenny is an In These Times Staff Writer and the co-host of the critically acclaimed radio show Citizen Radio. Her blog for In These Times, Uprising, focuses on efforts around the world to address the global economic crisis.