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Occupy D.C. defiant in face of camping ban

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Click on photo to enlarge or download: An Occupy D.C. sign advertises the noon deadline the U.S. Park Service gave for when it would start issuing citations to those in violation of a camping ban in public parks. SHFWire photo by Frank BumbClick on photo to enlarge or download: An Occupy D.C. sign advertises the noon deadline the U.S. Park Service gave for when it would start issuing citations to those in violation of a camping ban in public parks. SHFWire photo by Frank BumbWASHINGTON - The Statue of Civil War Gen. James B. McPherson received some new attire Monday.

Occupy D.C. protesters covered the statue of the general on horseback in a blue tarp, labeled the “Dream Tent,” to protest the recent decision by the U.S. Park Police to enforce regulations banning camping in public parks.

“We dream of a better world,” one protester said, using a “mic check.” After he spoke, others relayed information by repeating his words to the rest of the crowd of a couple of hundred people, including a large media contingent. “A world where corporations do not hoard the wealth from those who truly create it.”

The protesters then began to chant, “Let us sleep, so we can dream!” 

National Park Service Director Jonathon Jarvis said at Jan. 24 a House oversight committee hearing that the Park Police would begin enforcing a ban against camping in public parks. Jarvis admitted that the Park Police had allowed the Occupy protesters to camp previously because of concerns over possible property damage or violence if the rules were enforced.

The Occupy protesters defiantly raised the tarp over the statue just before noon and then announced that their purpose was to “prevent them from picking us off one by one.”

“If they want to arrest one of us, they have to arrest all of us, or none of us,” Michael, of Anchorage, Alaska, said. He said he is an Iraq war veteran and declined to give his full name.

“We’re here as both a symbol of protesting against economic inequality, and as a more practical matter, of aiding the people who don’t have anywhere else to go,” Mike Isaacson, a 24 year old master’s student at Howard University, said. “I feel like the least the Park Police can do is allow people who have nothing else to have tents against the weather.”

As of mid-afternoon, policed had made no arrests. Park Police would not give a timetable for issuing citations.

Over the weekend, police handed out fliers and posted them on tents warning they would enforce the camping ban Monday. The ban applies to people sleeping in the park, the long-term storage of items such as stoves or sleeping bags and tents that are not open on at least one side.  

Reach reporter Frank Bumb at bumbf@shns.com or 202-326-9871. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.

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