WASHINGTON -- Occupy DC has won a major legal victory vindicating the right to protest in McPherson Square, where demonstrators have lived in tents since Oct. 1 despite federal regulations prohibiting camping in the park.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ordered that, absent "exigent circumstances," protesters must be given 24-hour notice if the government "intends to enforce its regulations prohibiting camping or sleeping in McPherson Square."
"We're very pleased that we got what we were asking for," said Jeffrey Light, the lawyer who secured this order for the protesters. "It's tough living in a tent city with the understanding that the Park Police might come in at any moment and shut it down. Now we know they're not going to do anything without a court hearing."
National Park Service spokeswoman Carol Johnson previously told The Huffington Post that the agency is using its ample discretion in allowing protesters to occupy McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza with tents and other structures that appear to be disallowed under applicable law. Some protesters maintain that the agency's beneficence isn't necessary and argue that their Occupy activities, including camping in the parks, are all protected by the First Amendment.
These divergent arguments will be resolved. While Judge Boasberg's order came in response to a request for a temporary restraining order against the government, Light said that Occupy DC protesters in the same case will soon file a motion for a permanent injunction on the ground that the camping restrictions are unconstitutional.
That motion is due no later than Jan. 3. A hearing before Boasberg has been set for Jan. 31.
Flickr photo by Glyn Lowe Photos, used under a Creative Commons license.
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