As Washington, D.C.'s Democrat-dominated government attempts to evict Occupy protestors from their McPherson Square encampment, only a few blocks from the White House, the protestors have found an unlikely ally: the U.S. Park Police (USPP).
The federal-municipal confrontation has sparked speculation that President Barack Obama is protecting the Occupy protestors from city administrators.
The Occupy activists, however, seem to believe otherwise.
Big Government headed into the heart of the snow-bound encampment for an exclusive on-site interview with an Occupy DC demonstrator who does not believe the USPP is acting on orders from the Obama administration.
[caption id="attachment_418084" align="aligncenter" width="512" caption="The Occupy DC Encampment under Washington, D.C.'s first snowfall"]
The activists are familiar with the details of the political fight that began when the D.C. Mayor and the District Council wanted the Occupy sites finally shut down for health reasons, but USPP refused to do so in the name of the First Amendment.
The theory that the White House was pressuring USPP not to enforce District of Columbia statutes emerged Tuesday, January 24, during a Congressional hearing, when National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis fielded questions from Republican lawmakers.
U.S. Representatives were mystified as to why the USPP has not responded to District requests to finally shut down the encampment, and why the overnight sleeping ban in federal parks had not been enforced.
“Each of our First Amendment demonstrations (is) a little bit unique. And this one is, let’s say, unprecedented. The core of their First Amendment activity is that they occupy the site,” Jarvis told lawmakers. “We felt that going in right away and enforcing the regulations against camping could potentially incite a reaction on their part that would result in possible injury or property damage.”
USPP has asserted that demonstrators are allowed to participate in 24-hour vigil activities, but they cannot sleep there, and also added that from now on civil tickets will be issued to individual violators, but those violations will not result in the Occupy encampments in McPherson Square or Freedom Park being shut down.
Republican lawmakers were unsatisfied by that answer.
Darrell Issa, R-CA said he was concerned about selective enforcement of the sleepover ban and suggested that the USPP were acquiescing to the Obama administration by letting protestors stay overnight.
Jarvis disputed that assertion, and Big Government has learned that some inside the encampment also disagree. I interviewed an activist, who only identified himself as “James,” and who said that he travelled to the Occupy DC camp from the Occupy Orlando movement to participate in the Occupy Congress action on January 17.
A former U.S. Army infantryman who served from 1984-1986 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, James described his former job as a soldier as merely being a “bullet-catcher” for his country. Now an out of work software engineer, he says he’s devoted nearly all his time to “joining the 99 percent and fighting the good fight.”
[caption id="attachment_418096" align="aligncenter" width="478" caption="James is a former Occupy Orlando activist who travelled to Washington to join the Occupy Congress and Occupy D.C. efforts"]
James said that he adamantly disagrees with the Republican assertion that Jarvis and the USPP are under orders from President Obama to let the Occupy DC movement remain in place, and instead believes the USPP are legitimately trying to uphold the First Amendment. Here’s what he told Big Government in an exclusive interview from within the Occupy encampment Thursday afternoon:
I first got to Washington on the 16th of January to be a part of the J17 action to Occupy Congress. I had a little bit of time and resources to make the trip and I felt it was my responsibility to be here. We had a couple thousand people, and so we shut down the streets, and we shut down the Rayburn Building. It was democracy in action.
DC government wants us out, but there was a recent House Congressional Oversight Committee hearing, and one of the witnesses was the Parks Director, (Jonathan) Jarvis and he was consistent in his defense of any groups expression of their First Amendment rights on U.S. Parks Service lands within Washington, D.C.
Despite being baited by the Majority by Tea Party (Congressional) Members Walsh and Moody--who insinuated the police were being duped or used as a tool for the Obama Administration, which I found disgusting--Jarvis consistently reiterated that the historical record shows that there’s a heightened sensitivity to First Amendment expression in the nation’s Capitol because where else does one go to petition the government a redress of grievances.
After all, if you have a problem with the government, the federal government that is, this is where you do it. And he was also consistently reminding the committee that he has this is part of broader plan of escalating enforcement--working with not just us, but any group who wanted to occupy space in DC--that they want to work with us, not fight against us and that part of this strategy of intelligent escalation was that they’re not going to send storm troopers in here, but they are moving toward a place where they are going to enforce the no sleeping rule.
I maintain there’s a difference in maintaining a 24-hour vigil for your First Amendment rights and going camping and singing songs over a campfire. Our speech is the act of occupying physical space. You sit here for an hour and you’ll see here how many people come through here that we can explain our position to and if we weren’t here we wouldn’t have the government’s attention.
It’s not what we’re saying it’s the act of occupying.
James says that he plans to participate in the Occupy movement as long as he can. “I couldn’t take it anymore,” he says about the state of America. “I couldn’t sit and watch this world disintegrate.”
He also added the following: “Just make sure to note that I’m not an official representative of Occupy DC. I’m just participating.”
When another Occupy DC activist was asked if there was a spokesperson or leader that could be reached for comment, he simply responded, “Come on man, seriously--it’s been three months. There’s no one in charge here anymore. People are just here to be here because they believe in something, but no man, there’s no one like that anymore.”
Calls were not returned from either the District of Columbia mayor’s office and the United States Park Police media relations department.