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Police begin clearing Occupy DC, Charlotte sites

Jan. 30, 2012 at 3:22 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- U.S. Park Police began enforcing a camping ban in two Washington D.C. parks Monday as protesters gathered under a blue tarp they called the "tent of dreams."

Park Police spokesman Sgt. David Schlosser said no arrests were made as of early Monday afternoon, noting that some protesters voluntarily agreed to remove sleeping bags, pillows and housekeeping materials, CNN reported.

In Charlotte, N.C., Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Monday began making arrests at the Occupy Charlotte encampment after protesters did not dismantle their tents on the lawn of the old City Hall as ordered, The Charlotte Observer said.

Police were complying with a new city ordinance that bars groups from camping on city-owned property.

Occupy Charlotte tried to forestall eviction, asking a judge to issue a restraining order against the city. However, the judge said the docket was full and told the protesters' attorney, Robert Davies, and City Attorney Robert Hagemann that they would have to wait.

Hagemann said the city would not wait and Davies tried unsuccessfully to find another judge available to issue the order.

"A bunch of people will get arrested," Davies said. "We did everything we could."

Police began removing the tents as Occupy Charlotte participants shouting "Shame!" and "Arrest us! We'll multiply," the Observer said.

In Washington, the National Park Service last week said protesters had to remove their camping equipment from the McPherson Park and Freedom Plaza by noon Monday. Park officials said protesters would be allowed to remain in the parks and would be allowed to keep their tents as long as one side of the tents was open at all times.

"I'm going to do the best I can to stay here," Emily Margaret, who has been staying at Occupy DC's McPherson Park camp, told CNN. "If they want to arrest me, they can."

As the noon deadline passed, protesters draped the tarp over a statue of the McPherson Park's namesake, Civil War Gen. James McPherson, creating what they called a "tent of dreams."

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

The events in Washington were mentioned by White House press secretary Jay Carney during his daily press briefing.

"Our position has been and continues to be that we need to balance First Amendment concerns of the right to demonstrate, the right to speak freely, with public safety concerns and public health concerns," Carney said. "And we understand that local law enforcement as well as in this case the National Park Service and U.S. Park Police are weighing those considerations when they make these decisions, and that's appropriate."

The park service, which manages the parks, had tolerated camping rule violations, saying it would rather encourage the protesters to comply over time than make arrests that could lead to injury or property damage.

But the service changed its position after House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week he wanted to know if "political judgments played a role" in letting the protesters camp on park land.

A dozen people were arrested Sunday in a New York City Occupy Wall Street march called to show support for Occupy protesters in Oakland, Calif., police said.

Some of an estimated 300 participants in the New York City march threw bottles, apparently aimed at police officers, who accompanied the marchers on foot and in vehicles, The New York Times said.

In Oakland, about 400 people were arrested after a protest Saturday left City Hall vandalized and an American flag burned, authorities said.

The demonstration in New York began in Washington Square, where marchers gathered near a fountain, the Times said.

"We're going to get the backs of our brothers and sisters in the Bay Area," one protester said in reference to the Oakland demonstrations. "Let's march."

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan condemned Occupy Oakland's tactics as "a constant provocation of the police with a lot of violence toward them" and said the demonstrations had drained limited resources from an already strapped city.

Damage to City Hall Plaza has cost $2 million since October, about the cost of police overtime and mutual aid, she said.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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