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House Oversight Committee To Hold McPherson Square Hearing

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House Oversight And Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa at a hearing on Dec. 14, 2011.
House Oversight And Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa at a hearing on Dec. 14, 2011.

WASHINGTON -- The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee announced Tuesday that it will hold a hearing next week about Occupy DC's McPherson Square tent city.

The hearing, tellingly titled "McPherson Square: Who Made the Decision to Allow Indefinite Camping in the Park?," will address the decision-making process the National Park Service used to decide to allow Occupy DC to maintain its presence in the downtown park, despite federal regulations that seemingly prohibit camping.

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier and Department of Health Director Mohammed Akhter are scheduled to testify at next week's hearing.

Per the hearing announcement, they will be testifying about "the impact of the ongoing encampment on public health and public safety inside and outside the park." Akhter is author of a Jan. 11 memo to D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray alerting him of his "serious concerns" about the situation in McPherson Square -- among them, "rodent harborage," insufficient bathroom facilities, the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning and increased use of illegal substances.

National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis is scheduled to testify. Interior Assistant Secretary Rachel Jacobson has been invited to testify, but the Oversight Committee hearing announcement says that Jacobson has not yet confirmed her attendance.

In a letter sent in December to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the chairman of the Oversight panel, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) demanded answers to 16 questions about the National Park Service's dealings with Occupy DC -- among them, why the demonstrators have been permitted to camp in the park, a full list of arrests made in the park relating to the demonstration and an explanation of "when, if ever, the NPS plans to force the protesters to stop camping in McPherson Square."

The Interior Department has until Jan. 24 -- the day of the hearing -- to respond to the letter.

RELATED VIDEO: The Alonya Show's Jan. 13 feature on Occupy DC's possible eviction.

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