Mayor Vincent Gray wants Occupy DC out of McPherson Park, but so far the National Park Service is holding firm.
In a letter to the NPS, Gray cites the District’s Department of Health report on rat infestation at the camp and concerns about hypothermia. The Health Department director likened McPherson Park to a refugee camp, a comparison an Occupy DC media rep calls “totally inappropriate.”
The Park Service for now isn’t budging. An NPS spokesman said, “First Amendment rights and political free speech rights are what are at issue here, and we have rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court here that apply specifically to the District of Columbia. We, as any other federal agency, have to abide by what the Supreme Court tells us.”
In the letter the mayor first reminds the Park Service Director that he had previously asked him for reimbursement for costs the District has incurred ensuring “a safe and peaceful protest.” Gray has estimated those costs at upwards of $1.6 million.
Mayor Gray may have decided that the condemnation by the Health Department gives him leverage to turn up the heat on the NPS. At first friendly to Occupy DC, then confused as to the group’s goals, he’s grown less tolerant of the two camps.
Occupy DC announced Gray’s eviction threat at its General Assembly this evening. McPherson Park and Freedom Plaza are gearing up for a big event next week in conjunction with Occupy Congress, which could bring thousands of protestors to the District.