Sunday 22 April 2018

Police raid one of last remaining Occupy campsites

Eric Tucker in Washington

Dozens of US Park Police officers in riot gear and on horseback converged over the weekend to raid one of the last remaining Occupy sites in the US.

The police cleared away tents they said were banned under park rules.

At least seven people were arrested. Officials said it was relatively peaceful but got tense late in the day when an officer was struck in the face with a brick as police pushed protesters out of the last section of the park. The officer was taken to a hospital for treatment.

Protesters held a general assembly after Saturday's raid and vowed to continue the movement. One of the speakers urged everyone to practice nonviolence.

Dozens have been camped since October 1 in McPherson Square, just blocks from the White House. Similar to the New York protesters, who strategically occupied a park near Wall Street to highlight their campaign against economic inequality, the District of Columbia group selected a space along Washington's K Street. The street is home to some of the nation's most powerful lobbying firms.


Police insisted they were not evicting the protesters. Those whose tents conformed to regulations were allowed to stay, and protesters can stay 24 hours a day as long as they don't camp there with blankets or other bedding.

Despite what police said, some protesters said the crackdown amounted to eviction.

"This is a slow, media-friendly eviction," protester Melissa Byrne said. "We're on federal property, so they have to make it look good."

The officers poured into McPherson Square just before 6am on Saturday, some on horseback and others wearing routine riot gear.

Jeff Light, a lawyer who represents a couple of Occupy protesters and who was at McPherson Square, said he expected to challenge the police actions in court.

The Washington demonstration is among the last remaining Occupy sites, enjoying constitutional protections guaranteeing freedom of speech and assembly rights by virtue of its location on federal property.

Irish Independent

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