Monday, January 30, 2012

Occupy DC faces noon deadline to end camping


Occupy protesters in the nation's capital were preparing for a noon deadline set by federal park authorities to end camping at some of the movement's last remaining large encampments, with some "surprises" in store, one of the activists said.

The National Park Service said in a flier released Friday that it would begin enforcing regulations prohibiting camping and the use of temporary structures for camping at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza. Individual violators may be subject to arrest and their property subject to seizure as evidence, the flier said.

Justin Jacoby Smith, a 25-year-old activist with OccupyKSt, said the protesters at McPherson Square had plans for the deadline -- a "tent of dreams" was mentioned on their twitter feed, but he noted: “We’re still sort of keeping the specifics under wraps … we like to have surprises when we can.”

“Today what we’re trying to do is make sure that everyone knows that when you enforce a regulation against sleeping then you can’t dream of a better world, either … when you can’t sleep, you can’t dream," he said. "We’re going to make sure that we still have the opportunity to dream and that the people in this demonstration that have no place else to go are kept safe from the criminalization of homelessness that this order effectively creates.”

Officers would be on site to monitor the situation and try to get protesters to comply, Carol Johnson, a Park Service spokeswoman said on Friday. Compliance entails removing all camping materials and leaving one side of all temporary structures open.

“People can be there 24 hours a day, but they can’t live there, they can’t sleep there,” she said.

“We still do back the First Amendment, and it is their right. It is not their right to camp. And ... we would, you know, support them if they came into compliance and they had a vigil and they had tents that were there for logistical or symbolic purposes,” she added. "They can occupy as a vigil but not camping."

More than 80 arrests have occurred at the two sites, including for public urination, drunkenness, assault and drug use, she noted.

More at MSNBC.

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