The deadline for protesters to stop camping at two Occupy camps in Washington has come and gone. Things began to heat up last week when National Park Service officials were called before Congress to explain why Occupy protesters have been allowed to illegally camp on park land. In response, the Park Service ordered protesters to cease camping by Monday. Jeff Swicord reports.
On the day the U.S. Park Police planned to enforce a no-camping rule, the mood was festive in McPherson Square.
Some chanted Occupy slogans. Others milled around waiting for a noon deadline.
John Zangas has lived in his tent here for four months. He says he will put some of his belongings in storage.
“I am going to come in compliance with the law as I understand it. I am not allowed to keep camping equipment. Or, that type of equipment which could be used for camping. I understand that as long as my tent is kept open, and I am not sleeping in it, I can maintain a presence here,” Zangas said.
Last week, the police notified the two Occupy camps in Washington that they would enforce the camping ban. Protesters must clear out camping materials, but they may keep some structures as long as one side is open.
Saturday and Sunday, police in Oakland, California made more thatn 400 arrests there when anarchist factions loosely affiliated with the Occupy movement clashed with police.
But Desiree Deloach and other protesters in Washington say they don’t want that to happen here. She emphasizes that the Occupy movement, which seeks better economic equality, is non-violent.
“From what I have seen, everybody is peaceful. Everybody has packed up their stuff for the most part just in case. Some people have not packed up their stuff and are going to resist and stand their ground," she said.
As the deadline neared, hundreds of people gathered around the statue of James McPherson, an American Civil War general.
Then, protesters pulled a massive tarp over the statue symbolizing what they say is their right to camp here.
Johnny Mandreacchia says that even if the tents are taken down, the movement will continue.
“The movement is not going to stop just because we are not occupying this space. What we are trying to do is the occupy the narrative,” the protester said.
And that narrative has sought to draw attention to the wide gap between rich and poor in the United States.