Park Service begins no-camping enforcement against Occupy D.C.
The National Park Service on Monday began officially enforcing its no-camping ordinance on Occupy D.C. protestors in Washington's McPherson Square, saying the plan had been in the works for "quite some time."
NPS announced Friday that protestors would have until Monday at noon to comply on their own with the camping regulations before enforcement would begin. As of early Monday afternoon, no law enforcement actions had been taken against the protestors, according to The Washington Post and several live accounts of the event on Twitter and UStream.
NPS is quick to point out it is not evicting Occupy D.C. from the park.
"We are enforcing the camping regulations," Carol Johnson, NPS spokeswoman for the National Mall and memorial parks, told Government Executive. "We are still following the regulations that temporary structures that are logistically used for symbolic purchases as part of the demo will still be allowed to stay and a 24-hour vigil will still be allowed, but using the tents for camping will not be allowed."
During the weekend, NPS officials passed out flyers informing protestors of the impending enforcement and alerting them to myriad health and safety concerns. One man was hit with a stun gun and arrested by Park police on Sunday for tearing down the flyers. He has since been released and has rejoined the protestors.
These actions come after a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee called in NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis for a Jan. 24 hearing on the agency's handling of Occupy D.C. protestors. Johnson said the hearing did not influence NPS' actions and the increased enforcement "has been in the planning stages for quite some time."
He added: "We knew some people were in violation of it. It's difficult to tell who's demonstrating and who's sort of gone there in order to live there, has joined the movement in order to have some place to stay."
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., led the Jan. 24 hearing that asked: Who made the decision to allow indefinite camping in the park? Gowdy stated Monday that in regard to the hearing's question, "Director Jarvis said the decision was his alone. I have no evidence to the contrary and hence no reason not to take Director Jarvis at his word."
On Friday, Gowdy had issued a statement in support of NPS' decision to enforce the ordinance, saying, "Late is better than never. Lady Justice is blindfolded for a reason: so as not to see who is in front of her."
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee, had no new response Monday to NPS actions, but a spokesman for his office pointed to a statement Issa made Friday calling the enforcement decision "appropriate and overdue . . . The laws on camping were carefully crafted to meet with Supreme Court jurisprudence, and a continued failure to enforce them would have undermined the First Amendment."
Rather than complying with NPS' flyers, Occupy D.C. protestors Monday draped a large "tent of dreams" over the park's statue of Gen. James McPherson and banded together underneath. A little after 3:00 p.m., The Washington Post reported that several protestors had returned to their tents, keeping the flaps open to demonstrate that they are not sleeping.