State of McPherson

Since all traces of the Occupation were removed from McPherson Park on June 12, the Park Service moved in to fence off the north sections for restoration. The southwest section of the park was reopened.

They also–finally–realized that most of the park’s benches were inaccessible due to the fencing.

Occupy DC plans to restore its presence in the park through art installations, educational materials, mobile libraries, teach-ins and events.

 

 

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Occupation at McPherson Park ends, but Occupy movement in DC continues

The National Park Service moved in Tuesday morning to remove the last vestiges of the Occupy DC protest at McPherson Park. Park Service employees loaded debris into two trucks as several Park Police officers–including the familiar Sgt. Reid–stood watch at the foot of the statue of General McPherson. The last two nights the protest structures, including tents, signs and art, were demolished.

McPherson Park hadn’t served as a full-fledged Occupation since February 4, when Park Police raided it and removed the majority of tents. Subsequently, officers patrolled to enforce a no-sleeping policy.

The last month has seen the further detachment of Occupy DC from the park, as ithe number of tents shrank and the group acquired office space nearby, sponsored by union SEIU.

Some Occupiers no longer took pride in what remained of the often messy camp and wanted to clear it themselves. One of the witnesses to the Park Services’s clean-up operation, a homeless man named RB, said Occupy DC lacked control over who was hanging out in their protest space.

“When you start a revolution of sorts you don’t put out an application,” he said. “There could be hangers on the fringe who are not part of the movement.” He complained of heavy drug use.

Several of those affiliated with Occupy DC have contended that the McPherson camp was a tactic and that its termination doesn’t represent the health of the movement itself.

McPherson laid waste

Early Monday morning the remaining Occupy DC tents were demolished, debris scattered throughout the park. First reports blame six intoxicated men with laying waste to the park.

At 8:30am, John Zangas tweeted that several people “became rambunctious” and tore down every structure in the park.

The four remaining tents consisted of the library, the former information tent, a personal tent and a storage tent containing art and supplies. The majority of the books had already been removed from the library. At first glance, the only things missing were the finely lettered signs recently installed by Barry Knight.

At 11am, only one person was trying to clean up. Sweet, originally from Occupy Eugene and lately of Occupy DC, was trying to “consolidate” the mess.

As people mingled after Occupy DC’s People’s Summit on Sunday evening, one person proposed removing the tents and invited someone to block the proposal. The gathering was not a general assembly.

UPDATE: The tornado-like damage inflicted on McPherson last night seems to be only one part of a larger narrative unfolding within Occupy DC. While it is unconfirmed exactly who demolished what remained of the Occupy DC camp at the park, what is clear is that attitudes of Occupiers toward their Occupation site have dramatically changed.

The Sleepful Protest at Bank of America on Vermont and L was reportedly notified of the damage between 4 and 5am, yet only one person (again reportedly) went to check it out.

The news went out on Twitter early in the morning, yet by 11am only one person was in the park cleaning up debris.

Compare this response to late January, when the Tent of Dreams served as a clarion call of defiance directed toward the National Park Service, who seemed poised to evict Occupy DC from the park at any moment. Hundreds flocked to McPherson when summoned.

This is also a dramatic difference from late March, when Park Police tore down the information tent. The anger and defiance was so great, DC Occupiers took to the streets that very evening in protest.

There has been significant debate lately within Occupy DC whether to continue its presence at McPherson. Cleanliness has been a problem, and many people drink alcohol at night, leading to arrests. This appearance and behavior reflect poorly on Occupy DC.

Still, many people strongly support the tactic of Occupation. “Occupying a public space is important no matter what any body says,” Feriha Kaya said, responding to the destruction. “Have you heard of any Occupation that has taken down its own tents?”

[Note: On April 18, Occupy New Haven decided to disassemble tents after a court ruling against them. The decision sparked internal dissent, and twelve New Haven Occupiers were arrested resisting the dismantlement of their camp. (hat tip: @msamricth)]

UPDATE: Livestreamers Carlisle and Austin Dalton erect what they call the “McPherson Fortress.”

“They [the people who wanted the park destroyed] can kiss my ass,” Austin says.

People’s Library at McPherson no more

The People’s Library at McPherson Park has been disassembled, all books packed up in crates and taken to the new Occupy DC Resource Center. The library staff made the decision to shut it down.

DC Mic Check zeroes in on the importance of the library in a February 18 article:

The DC People’s Library began in the first days of Occupy DC as little more than a handful of radical pamphlets on the back of a bike trailer. A couple of occupiers were  stationed on a bench with a sign reading, “ask an anarchist,” a precursor to the radical reference service now available in-person and online through the library. Within the first two weeks, a small shelf of donated books had appeared.

By the time Occupy DC was raided, the once-tiny library had become one of the camp’s most vibrant and well-established service tents. It had amassed nearly 2000 donated books – from contemporary politics and history to classics, comics, and a kid’s section – as well as numerous periodicals, pamphlets, and activist-oriented resources like the “safer spaces” binder.

Lately the library at McPherson has been plagued by rats and mold.

During the raid on Occupy DC by National Park Police on February 4, protestors linked arms, determined to defend the library at all costs, viewing it as the heart of the encampment.

With the dismantling of the library and the recent removal of Occupy DC’s information tent, only two tents remain at McPherson Park to make up the “24-hour vigil” presence.

A video tour of the library here.

And a photo of the library in happier days.

(Photos by coolrevolution.net)

Info Tent goes down again

National Park Police removed Occupy DC’s information tent at McPherson Park this morning about 9 am. Given that there was some noticeable excessive drinking at the camp this weekend with liquor splashed around the info tent, the first guess was that the Park Police were responding to those incidents.

But Sgt. Paul Brooks of the NPP said that someone was “camping” this morning in the info tent–clarifying that he meant sleeping–and that “it’s procedure” to remove tents in those cases. The Park Police has been enforcing 24-hour no-sleeping rules since the February 4 raid. Officers however rarely go so far as to take down a tent when an occupant is sleeping; they’re more likely to poke or kick the sleeper awake.

Sgt. Brooks also said that they were no plans to remove other tents, that officers would only do so if they were not “in compliance.”

The info tent was also removed on March 29 and immediately replaced with another. It sparked bad feelings, and Occupiers took to the streets that evening to protest with plenty of personal animosity toward Sgt. Reid, who gave the order to fell the tent.

Update:

From DC Mic Check: “According to occupiers, the tent will not be replaced and the services formerly provided by the tent will be split between two locations”–the adjacent food tent and the new Occupy Resource Center.

This time around, the reaction seems to be less contentious: “Spirits in the park remain high. [According to Georgia Pearce,] ‘Getting that [tent] cleared out I think is not altogether a bad thing.'”

(Photo by coolrevolution.net)

Park Police, Occupy DC renew antagonism

Holdover friction from the February 4th raid on McPherson Park was renewed today as Park Police removed two tents, including the information tent. According to Sgt. Reid of the Park Police, the tents were “not in compliance” and contained bedding and personal items such as clothing. “They just won’t listen,” he added.

According to fliers distributed by the National Park Service, NPP regulations define camping as “use of park land for living accommodation purposes such as sleeping activities, or making preparations to sleep (including the laying down of bedding for the purpose of sleeping) or storing personal belongings, or making any fire, or using any tents or shelter…”

Participants of the Occupy DC protest strongly objected to the removal of the tents. They immediately pitched a new, larger one to serve as the information desk.