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Occupy DC's Preliminary Injunction Denied, Class Action Still Moves Forward

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A large tent drapped over the statue of Gen. James McPherson stands over the Occupy DC encampment in McPherson Square on January 30, 2012 in Washington, DC. U.S. Park Police are set to begin enforcing a ban on overnight camping in parks as protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement have been staying at two sites in the city for months.
A large tent drapped over the statue of Gen. James McPherson stands over the Occupy DC encampment in McPherson Square on January 30, 2012 in Washington, DC. U.S. Park Police are set to begin enforcing a ban on overnight camping in parks as protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement have been staying at two sites in the city for months.

WASHINGTON -- A federal court judge denied Occupy DC's request for a preliminary injunction blocking the National Park Service from evicting demonstrators from McPherson Square, where they have been camping since Oct. 1.

Dismissing the motion, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg found on Thursday that the demonstrators had "not shown any imminent actual injury that threatens their tents" and that "any future closing of the Square remains too hypothetical for the Court to address."

But the protesters' suit against the government isn't over.

On Friday, Boasberg issued an order giving the government until Feb. 16 to respond to a motion for class certification filed in mid January as a means of broadening the suit. The proposed class would include all members of the demonstration who "own or possess tents in McPherson Square which have been or will be taken and/or destroyed" by the National Park Service.

Attorney Jeffrey Light told The Huffington Post he's hoping for class-action certification so he can maintain the suit in case the original two plaintiffs decide to leave McPherson Square.

"If these plaintiffs want to leave Occupy, I won't have a case anymore," he said. "It seems like it would be a lot easier to represent everyone."

What's left to litigate, now that the preliminary injunction motion has been denied?

Light wants to know why Occupy DC's recently-installed "Tent of Dreams" -- a blue tarp covering most of the park's statue of Gen. James McPherson -- has been allowed to stay, while December's wooden "People's Pavilion" was immediately torn down.

Sounding not entirely unlike Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and other Republican lawmakers who recently grilled National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis about his agency's seemingly ad hoc treatment of the McPherson Square encampment, Light said that the case should not be dismissed altogether before the government presents clear standards guiding its treatment of Occupy DC.

"Otherwise it's just really arbitrary," said Light. "They've left up the blue tarp so far. We're not really sure why. We want standards about what will be allowed and what isn't allowed."

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