Park Police Assemble At Freedom Plaza Occupy Camp; Barricades Set Up As Officers Inspect Tents
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Park Police officers assembled at Freedom Plaza's Occupy Wall Street-inspired tent city on Sunday, a day after the federal agency largely cleared out the nation's capital larger Occupy encampment in McPherson Square in a daylong enforcement action that saw the removal of scores of tents and a handful of arrests.
According to livestreaming video from Freedom Plaza, officers conducted an "informal" walk-through of the encampment shortly after noon, checking for compliance with National Park Service regulations that prohibit camping in the federally controlled space.
Barricades were also set up by the Park Police on Freedom Plaza, a block-long space fronting Pennsylvania Avenue. In an adjacent space, Pershing Park, officers examined "abandoned" materials apparently deposited there by Freedom Plaza activists for safekeeping.
Around 1:30 p.m., work crews in white biohazard suits, similar to those who inspected McPherson Square on Saturday, inspected tents on Freedom Plaza, along with U.S. Park Police officers who were seen documenting the interior of tents with cameras. Tents that were found out of compliance were disassembled and removed from the plaza.
The Washington Post's Katherine Driessen estimates that "at least" 25% of the tents in Freedom Plaza were taken down by mid-afternoon on Sunday.
The National Park Service was due to begin enforcing its no-camping regulations on Jan. 30. NPS is facing pressure from congressional Republicans and District of Columbia officials who question the agency's seemingly ad-hoc enforcement of its no camping rules against Occupy protesters in the nation's capital.
Occupy Washington DC -- previously known as Stop the Machine -- has been set up in Freedom Plaza since Oct. 6. The group is technically separate from the protesters at McPherson Square, who initially gathered in the downtown park near the White House on Oct. 1.
After Saturday's action by the Park Police in McPherson Square, roughly 25 tents were left standing. Scores more that were found to be out of compliance were removed.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, whose health director compared the conditions at the McPherson Square site to refugee camps he's seen in the Middle East and Africa, recently suggested that the city's two Occupy camps consolidate at Freedom Plaza.
Compared to McPherson Plaza, where Occupy activists had been camping largely on grass and dirt, the space at Freedom Plaza consists primarily of stone pavement.
In January, one Freedom Plaza organizer told The Huffington Post that D.C. health inspectors gave the camp high marks for sanitation -- 98 out of 100. "I suspect we did as well, or better, than many restaurants in the District," organizer Kevin Zeese said at the time.
At the same time, McPherson Square's kitchen was closed over sanitation concerns. D.C. health officials also pointed to rat infestations and other public health issues as justification to have the McPherson Square camp closed.
Since both properties are under federal jurisdiction, the D.C. government could not take direct action to address their concerns about the Occupy camps.
The McPherson Square activists are gathering the remains of their camp on Sunday for a general assembly meeting to discuss the future of their group.
This is a developing story ...
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