Police Raid Occupy DC Camp, Protesters Vow To Return
Park police dressed in full riot gear and hazmat suits (a few riding in on horseback) raided the Occupy DC camp over the weekend after sealing off a two block perimeter surrounding McPherson Square. During the eviction, police violently shoving activists in the process, and ultimately arresting 11 people.
Video of police on horseback:
Four protesters were taken into custody for allegedly assaulting police officers, including one individual who reportedly hit and injured an officer with a brick. Seven others were arrested for disobeying orders to leave the park, or for crossing police lines, according to a park police spokesman.
A 12th protester was arrested on Sunday.
"It's been a hell of a day so far. We were pushed out of the park violently by the police. The police formed two parallel lines and began squashing protesters into each other. Once police realized their mistake, that they had essentially given us no way out, they began hitting people to get them out of the park. The ground is wet and muddy, and so it's very dangerous. Many people were hurt. A number of people have to see medics for their injuries," Justin Jacoby Smith, a member of the media team of Occupy DC told ABCNews.com.
Certain media outlets have erroneously reported this event as being a raid on the last standing Occupy camp. While it's true Occupy DC is one of the only remaining major camps, there are still smaller encampments operating around the country in less prominent cities and towns.
The Occupy chapter was informed on Jan. 27 that a no-camping regulation would be enforced by park police following Washington authorities' declaration that the camp was violating health and safety standards due to the presence of rats.
National Park Service employees in full hazmat suits haul one of several mattresses found in tents to a truck as they remove tents and other debris at the Occupy DC encampment in McPherson Square. (KAREN BLEIER, AFP/Getty Images/AFP)
Despite the crackdown by police, Occupy DC protesters have vowed to return.
"This occupation is far from over. They can't evict an idea whose time has come," said a statement on the occupydc.org website.
A US Park Police officer uses a limb saw to remove a mask of Guy Fawkes from a statue of James McPherson in McPherson Square Feb. 4, in Washington, DC. (Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images)
In Washington, one protester sat cross-legged on the ground, holding a sign painted with the words, "Imagine Peace" while a group of women chanted, "This occupation is not leaving." A man handed out pins in the shape of ivy branches, symbolizing regrowth.
"Fall back, regroup, and fight another day," said Mike Sheffer, 54, who traveled from Vermont to be part of the anti-war demonstration in Freedom Plaza that kicked off the encampment in October. "The reasons why we came here haven't changed."
Protesters are debating ways to continue the movement through community organizing and maintaing a presence in the park, which might involve sleeping on sidewalks, the Tribune reports.
Police have said that protesters can still demonstrate in the park, and that doing so is protected by their First Amendment rights. However, any 24-hour vigil cannot include tents used as accommodation, though tents can be used as symbolic props.
U.S. Park Police spokesman Sergeant David Schlosser refuses to even call the raid an eviction.
"This is absolutely not an eviction," he told the Tribune. "this is strictly a compliance issue."
Occupy DC protesters beg to differ.
Sam Dukore, 26 years old, on Sunday held a black trash bag containing belongings of a friend who vowed to be arrested at Freedom Plaza. Mr. Dukore said he was arrested Saturday when he refused to leave an area of McPherson Square. "American needs to wake up to the fact the police are enforcing the will of a very small percentage of individuals that control most of the capital," he said.
Jeff Light, a lawyer advising Occupy D.C., told the WSJ he planned to file paperwork yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking a court hearing about the raid.