WASHINGTON -- Matthew Patterson, a member of Occupy DC's media team, is not impressed with the Washington Examiner article over the weekend that suggested replacing protester-damaged grass in McPherson Square could cost taxpayers $200,000.
"I think that sounds like an awfully high estimate," said Patterson, adding that this isn't the first attempt to discredit protesters by calling them "dirty and dangerous."
Patterson said that, to the extent the grass situation should concern anyone, the protesters are on top of it. The Occupy DC group -- which has been in McPherson Square since Oct. 1 -- has decided it will take responsibility for repairing the park. Protesters have begun replanting grass in some of McPherson's bare areas and are soliciting estimates for professionals to resod any areas they can't fix themselves.
"I think it's a little bit silly to focus on the cost of trampling a bit of grass when we're out here trying to keep something much bigger, which includes destruction of the environment worldwide," Patterson said. "I would say that a patch of grass in McPherson Square is not nearly as important as the greater good that we are trying to achieve."
Of course, what exactly the group is trying to achieve is still up for debate. Patterson said that the process of drafting Occupy DC's declaration of intent is well under way, but he can't say when the declaration will be complete since the consensus process can be laborious.
And the patch of grass in question isn't so small anymore.
At last check, there were some 120 tents in McPherson Square, plus the protest's various administrative facilities (the first aid tent, the meal area, the comfort station, the welcome tent and the media center), and not a lot of open park left.
"We've pretty much taken up all the free tent space in the square," Patterson acknowledged. "It is getting close to capacity for tents."
Cold weather is coming, which may lead to some protester attrition. Patterson said he's not convinced that the winter will decrease the size of the protest. In any case, once spring comes, he said, Occupy DC is likely to grow bigger again.
So what will the protesters do when McPherson Square is full? The group is formulating its plans, which may lead to even more grass issues, important or not.
"Obviously," Patterson said, "this isn't the only park in D.C."
Flickr photo by tedeytan.