WASHINGTON -- District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray may have turned up the pressure on the federal government to remove the Occupy DC encampment from McPherson Square, but Occupy DC says their protest isn't going anywhere.
The protesters issued a media release on Friday with a to-the-point headline: "Occupy DC Is Not Leaving McPherson Square, Will Not Cave to Mayor Gray's Political Posturing."
In the release itself, the protesters claim a move to evict them from McPherson Square, where they have been camped since Oct. 1, would be unconstitutional and would cause more problems than it would solve:
Washington, D.C. -- Mayor Gray's call for the National Park Service to unconstitutionally evict Occupy DC is more dangerous than the problems it would purportedly solve.
As Bill Line with the National Parks Service helpfully reiterated for Mayor Gray, Occupy DC is being treated as a 24-hour vigil, which the Park Service cannot shut down. "First Amendment rights and free speech rights are what are at issue here," Line said to WTOP.
The DC Department of Health memo that Mayor Gray has cited to justify eviction of the encampment recommends a different course of action: "working together to develop a monitoring and public education plan to reduce the risk of these concerns..." It is unclear why the Mayor's recommendation contradicts that of a team of sanitation experts.
Occupy DC will gladly work with the city, as we have worked with the Park Service from day one, to address sanitation and health concerns while maintaining the encampment in McPherson Square. Rats and sanitation are a citywide problem, and Occupy DC will be happy to resolve them in our camp.
Forceful evictions have significantly endangered lives in other occupations, and would be completely counterproductive to ensuring the safety of occupiers, especially since the cited sanitation concerns have not harmed anyone to date. Many who call McPherson Square home rely on the food and shelter the encampment provides. Eviction would not protect them from the freezing weather, but force them to endure it without the tent, food and blankets available at Occupy DC.
The Occupy the Vote DC members of Occupy DC hope that, despite this setback, their work with the mayor's office for DC statehood will help improve the relationship between the city and Occupy DC. We're all in this together.
Given Mayor Gray's background in activism, he should know that protesting injustice can be messy. But a mess is a poor reason to shut down a mass movement.
One Twitterer, RappinActivistRec, saw a possible upside to eviction for the protesters:
Members of Occupy DC have filed for a permanent injunction that would permanently bar the government from dismantling the tent city in McPherson Square. Arguments in that suit are due to be heard on Jan. 31.
Flickr photo by majunznk, used under a Creative Commons license.
RELATED VIDEO: Inside the Occupy DC kitchen.