Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Occupy D.C. Defies Eviction Order

Occupy DC Camps Remain As Deadline Passes

No Arrests As Of Tuesday
By Ed Payne CNN
UPDATED: 5:27 am MST January 31, 2012

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defiant but festive, Occupy DC protesters hunkered down early Tuesday as a deadline passed for U.S. Park Police to begin enforcing a ban on camping in two Washington parks.

"We're just having a great party," said Occupy DC representative Sara Shaw. "We've camped since October so it's a lot like any other night. We're all staying awake and looking out for each other."

Until now, Occupy protesters have been allowed to remain under a Park Service interpretation that considered the activity a "24-hour vigil."

But on Friday, the National Park Service set a noon Monday deadline for protesters who have occupied the parks for months to remove their camping gear.

Park officials said protesters would be allowed to remain around the clock and keep up tents, so long as one side of each tent remains open at all times so they can see inside.

Early Tuesday morning, the scene at McPherson Park was largely quiet. Some milled around, with little hint of police presence.

"It's quiet because it's been a long day," said a person streaming the scene from the park using a wireless Internet connection "A lot of people are sleeping."

Dozens huddled under what movement members were calling their "Tent of Dreams" -- a large blue tarp draped over the statue of the park's namesake, Civil War Gen. James B. McPherson.

"Let us sleep so we can dream," they chanted.

Blue tents dotted the grounds. "Eviction?? BRING IT!!" read one cardboard sign.

Another sign, scrawled in white paint on a blue tarp, said: "Evicted from home by the banks. Evicted from the tent by the police. 99% has no safe place to rest."

The threat of arrest didn't deter many in the Occupy DC movement. Many braced for a police raid, spurred by rumors on social media. But it never came.

"If anyone can explain the source of the raid "confirmation" tonight, please provide it," the Occupy DC said on its Twitter feed. "Otherwise don't spread rumors. #occupydc"

No arrests had been made as of early Tuesday morning at McPherson Park or Freedom Plaza. Some protesters packed up the prohibited gear, but others moved in and set up camp.

"This is our final stand in a way," protester Todd Fine told CNN affiliate WJLA. "This is not camping. This is free speech. We have no other way to reach our government."

Occupy DC is part of a larger activist surge that began last year in New York and quickly spread.

While the protesters have highlighted a number of causes, the overarching theme has remained largely the same: populist anger over what activists portray as an out-of-touch corporate, financial and political elite.

Violent clashes erupted over the weekend in Oakland, California.

Protesters trying to take-over a vacant convention center threw rocks, bottles and other objects Saturday afternoon at police, who responded with bean-bag rounds, tear gas and smoke grenades. Afterward, the activists criticized police as being heavy-handed, with police and city officials said the protesters instigated the violence.

The Oakland demonstrators later got into a downtown YMCA and, eventually, City Hall. Once there, police said that protesters painted graffiti on walls, took down and burned an American flag and committed other acts of vandalism.

Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan later said about 400 demonstrators were arrested.

City Hall reopened Monday after an extensive clean-up effort.

Also on Monday, protesters in Charlotte, North Carolina, were given an afternoon deadline to remove tents from the site of the old city hall.

Police took down several tents.

"We're doing the right thing, peacefully and quietly," protester Malachi Vinson told CNN affiliate WCNC. "We're expressing ourselves in a better way than anyone else would."

CNN's Athena Jones, Joe Sutton, Courtney Battle, Paul Courson, Brian Todd and Dugald McConnell contributed to this report.

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