Bid to halt no-camping rule for DC protesters denied

WASHINGTON Tue Jan 31, 2012 5:15pm EST

1 of 9. An Occupy Washington protester flies a U.S. flag upside down, usually flown as a sign of distress, at Freedom Plaza in Washington January 30, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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Tue, Jan 31 2012

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge denied a petition on Tuesday that would have allowed anti-Wall Street protesters to keep camping - at least temporarily - in two parks in the nation's capital where they have lived for months.

The National Park Service had banned protesters with the Occupy DC movement from camping in McPherson Square, a few blocks from the White House, starting at noon on Monday.

Scores of protesters have vowed to remain entrenched at the square and at a second site, Freedom Plaza. The demonstrators have been camped at the parks since October.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg rejected a motion by Dane Primerano, of Riceboro, Georgia, for a temporary restraining order halting enforcement of the no-camping rule based on constitutional guarantees of free speech.

While similar "Occupy" protests against social and economic inequality in other U.S. cities have been shut down by police, the demonstrations in the capital have survived an unusually warm winter and a permissive approach by federal authorities reluctant to provoke confrontation.

Despite their small numbers, the Washington protesters enjoy outsized media attention because their camps are just blocks from President Barack Obama's official residence. One is next to K Street, a wide thoroughfare that is home to many lobbyists and is synonymous with corporate influence in the capital.

While Obama has not explicitly backed the protests, he has made economic inequality a central theme of his re-election campaign and called for higher taxes on wealthier Americans, angering his Republican opponents.

The judge, in declining to halt enforcement of the no-camping rule, cited a 1984 Supreme Court ruling that barred demonstrators from camping in Lafayette Park next to the White House to draw attention to the plight of the homeless.

"I see no distinction in this case," Boasberg said.

The judge agreed, however, to a request by a lawyer for the protesters to order the Park Service to give demonstrators notice if authorities decide to clear McPherson Square.

While they have not started to clear the sites, police on Monday told demonstrators that they had to remove a tarpaulin decorated with stars and moons they had draped over the square's statue of Civil War General James McPherson.

Demonstrators stayed under the tarpaulin, dubbed the "tent of dreams," overnight, playing Scrabble and talking. After hours of debate, protesters decided to leave it up to police to remove the tarp but not resist as a group.

A passerby, Paul Ferro, tried to tear down the tarp but was restrained by protesters.

"You've just got to keep out there pounding the pavement, there's money to be made," Ferro, a 40-year-old elevator mechanic from Maryland, told reporters.

A University of Delaware survey said on Monday that nearly one in five Americans had heard nothing about the "Occupy" movement four months since the protests began.

Among those aware of the movement, one-third could not identify the protesters' main message, that too few people control most U.S. wealth and power, according to the poll of 901 adults.

(Reporting By Ian Simpson; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Cynthia Johnston)

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Comments (12)
reddragon696 wrote:
Let’s hope that the TV News Cameras stay around since that apparently is the only thing that is keeping the Park LEOs from using violent tactics against the protesters who are only doing what the U.S. Constitution allows, peacefully protesting the Government. Every time that the LEOs use Force against Us, The People, they show just how much of a Police State America has started to become. Hopefully The People will also remember, come Election Time, that the Republicans have publicly advocated the LEOs using violent force against the Protesters as it makes Us, The People, openly aware that at any time, any one of us could be in the same situation as these jobless people are. As long as the Protesters remain peaceful and non-violent the LEOs have no real grounds to shut them down except for the rules and regulations they themselves come up with to push the protesters back into the shadows where the rest of the world cannot see them. I expect for Undercover LEOs to infiltrate the protesters and incite violence at any time in order to give the LEOs a ‘Legal’ reason to move in and close them down as the Government will not tolerate this peaceful Insubordination and Civil Disobedience for much longer and they need a ‘Legal’ reason to use violence against the Protesters. Allowing the Protesters to publicly remain in the Lime Light is embarrassing the Government before the World and that is something they do NOT like one little bit.

Jan 31, 2012 6:52am EST  --  Report as abuse
jaham wrote:
Yea man, I’m protesting because, like, I don’t have a job, man.

At least these guys have finally drawn a bit closer to the root of the problem – K Street and Capitol Hill. Wall Street is just a symptom of the problem.

Jan 31, 2012 8:33am EST  --  Report as abuse
jaham wrote:
@redragon…don’t drink the kool-aid, my friend…

What does the constitution say about peacefully protesting on a piece of land that you do not own?

I’m pretty sure you must abide by whatever rules the landowner imposes. If a park doesn’t allow camping, then you are breaking the law and police have the right to remove you. If you refuse to leave the police have the right ot forcefully remove you. Pretty simple.

These “activists” are so worried about their rights to free speech and the like, they fail to realize that other people have rights too. Like the right to kick you out of zucotti park (or wherever else), if they so please.

I know what you “activists” should do – actively seek a job.

Jan 31, 2012 9:30am EST  --  Report as abuse
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