United States Park Police officials have given warnings to both protesting encampments located in the District of Columbia.
The warnings are requesting those at Occupy DC and Freedom Plaza to hault the camping efforts at their encampments by high-noon Monday (January 30), or risk being arrested.
The warnings comes just days after the National Park Service (NPS) distributed flyers to the protesters Friday at McPherson Square on K Street and at Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue, a mere two blocks from the White House and Department of Treasury.
“The status quo on up there on Capitol Hill are scared of us, that’s why they’re trying to get rid of us,” said Warren, an Occupier at McPherson Square.
The move comes after a contentious House oversight subcommittee hearing Tuesday where it’s chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and other Republican lawmakers took turns attacking NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis, and other DC government officials on why camping has been allowed since October.
Jarvis responded that the agency had discretion in deciding how to enforce the no-camping rule, and that police had been trying to work with the protesters to get compliance while also upholding their First Amendment rights.
The park service defines camping as using park land for “living accommodation purposes such as sleeping.” It says camping materials must be removed and temporary structures must be left open to allow for inspection.
You can read the official notice below:
Camping Enforcement Notice Distributed to Demonstrators at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza by National Park Service:
National Park Service Camping Enforcement Notice For McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza
National Mall & Memorial Parks
National Mall and Memorial Parks – National Park Service
January 27 , 2012
This communication serves as notice that, on or about noon, January 30, 2012, the United States Park Police will commence enforcement of the long-standing National Park Service (NPS) regulations that prohibit camping and the use of temporary structures for camping in McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza. The NPS has repeatedly advised participants in both parks of the camping regulations, and had sought voluntary compliance. On or about noon, January 30, 2012, if camping violations are observed, individual violators may be subject to arrest and their property subject to seizure as evidence. Any temporary structure used for camping also will be subject to seizure as an abatement of a public nuisance, and may be reclaimed by the property owner between the hours of 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. at the Park Police D-1 Station located at 960 Ohio Drive, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024, if done within the 60 days. Items determined to be trash or a bio-hazard, however, will be disposed of as refuse, so you are advised to promptly dispose of any such items.
NPS REGULATIONS PROHIBIT THE FOLLOWING:
1. CAMPING , defined as the “use of park land for living accommodation purposes such as sleeping activities, or making preparations to sleep (including the laying down of bedding for the purpose of sleeping) or storing personal belongings, or making any fire, or using any tents or shelter or other structure or vehicle for sleeping or doing any digging or earth breaking . . . .” Title 36 CFR § 7.96(i)(1).
2. USE OF TEMPORARY STRUCTURES FOR CAMPING: “Temporary structures may not be used outside designated camping areas for living accommodation activities such as sleeping, or making preparations to sleep (including the laying down of bedding for the purpose of sleeping), or storing personal belongings, or making any fire, or doing any digging or earth breaking or carrying on cooking activities. The above-listed activities constitute camping when it reasonably appears, in light of all the circumstances that the participants, in conducting these activities, are in fact using the area as a living accommodation regardless of the intent of the participants or the nature of any other activities in which they may also be engaging . . . .” Title 36 CFR § 7.96(g)(5)(vi).
Remove all camping material from the park, AND
Leave one side of all temporary structures open at all times to ensure public health and safety and to allow NPS personnel to monitor compliance with camping regulations.
At both parks, NPS rangers will be distributing this notice to persons and at each temporary structure, and will post it in conspicuous locations in the parks, and on the park’s website at www.nps.gov/nacc/parkmgmt .
The National Park Service also filed notice (PDF) with U.S. District Judges James Boasberg, the federal judge overseeing the protesters’ case against the agency about the warning this afternoon.
Attorneys for the Occupy D.C. demonstrators and the U.S. Department of the Interior are due in court Jan. 31 to argue over a preliminary injunction motion. The demonstrators have sued to keep the park service from removing any tents or property from McPherson Square, which they claim would be a violation of their constitutional rights since the items are part of their protest.
Several hours after the government notified the court of its warning, Boasberg issued a new minute order finding that the park service had complied with the previous order and that Park Police could “begin enforcing the Park Service’s anti-camping regulations, including arresting those persons in McPherson Square who are in violation of those regulations and seizing for temporary impoundment their tents and other possessions.”
The Jan. 31 hearing will address the question of whether Park Police can destroy or remove tents that belong to people who are complying with the no-camping rule, Boasberg wrote.