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DC occupiers remain; Charlotte emptied

Jan. 31, 2012 at 2:11 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Occupy DC protesters stayed put at their Washington sites early Tuesday, despite a camping ban, while Charlotte, N.C., police ripped up tents and made arrests.

U.S. Park Police began enforcing the Washington camping ban at noon EST Monday, but the enforcement consisted of reminding demonstrators of the regulation, spokesman Sgt. David Schlosser said.

Police want voluntary compliance, Schlosser told reporters at McPherson Square, one of two plazas the protesters have occupied since early October. If that doesn't happen, "incremental measures" will be taken, he said, refusing to explain what that meant.

A number of protesters did comply and remove camping gear, he said. No one was reported arrested as of 2 a.m. EST Tuesday.

The National Park Service, which manages the federal plazas, said protesters could remain around the clock and keep up tents, provided one side of each tent remained open at all times to show they contained no bedding or personal belongings.

Protesters Monday pulled a tarp over a statue of the park's namesake, Civil War Union Army Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson, to create what they called a "tent of dreams." The tent still stood early Tuesday, Occupy DC said on Twitter.

White House spokesman Jay Carney spoke about the protests -- blocks from the White House -- in his daily press briefing Monday.

"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," he 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," he said.

The park service had tolerated camping, saying it would rather encourage the protesters to comply with a no-camping rule over time than make arrests that could lead to injury or property damage. But the service adjusted 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 the parkland.

Protesters accused Issa of playing politics.

In North Carolina, Occupy Charlotte protesters vowed to regroup after police dismantled most of their protest site Monday, ripping up tents at the campsite erected in September and October.

Police arrested at least seven protesters on charges of obstructing and delaying officers, The Charlotte Observer reported.

An Occupy Charlotte attorney filed a lawsuit accusing the city of violating First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly. The lawsuit, which was to be heard in court Tuesday, seeks to prevent the city from enforcing a new ordinance that was used to remove the Occupy Charlotte campsite.

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