Occupy D.C. Protesters Wait As Noon Deadline Passes - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Occupy D.C. Protesters Wait As Noon Deadline Passes

USATODAY.COM - WASHINGTON – A noon deadline passed to remove camping equipment from two Occupy Wall Street sites in Washington, D.C., after officials said they planned to enforce a no-camping rule and start moving out protesters.

The National Park Service has warned protesters that those who violate the camping rule at Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square will be subject to arrest, but by mid-afternoon nothing had happened.

At Freedom Plaza tents flapped in the wind. A few protesters milled about. A woman knitted by her tent, seated in a wheelchair.

Protester Bill Miniuti, 62, inspected a tent for Tammy Kareza, 47, who is homeless.

Police may come at nightfall, when people start to go to sleep, Miniuti said. Kareza "shouldn't be sleeping down here, but if she doesn't have anywhere else, what can we do?"

Earlier in the day Barry Knight kept a watchful eye on two U.S. Park Police officers inspecting tents at Freedom Plaza.

"I'm following them so they know they're being observed," Knight said.

Protesters have said they intend to stay at the two sites and defend their encampments.

Republican lawmakers last week questioned why the Park Service has allowed Occupy protesters to camp for months on federal land. National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said protesters have a right to be in the park and won't be evicted, but they will be encouraged to sleep elsewhere.

Monday morning a sign board carried a National Park Service notice that regulations banning camping will be enforced starting at noon. It defined camping as having temporary structures to store personal belongings and "laying down of bedding for the purpose of sleeping."

"It's not an eviction notice," said Knight, 44, of Framingham, Mass., who has been living at Freedom Plaza since Christmas and has been a part of the movement since October. "We have to have our tents open and not have our sleeping bags rolled out to show we're not camping.

"We're here to exercise our freedom of speech, which is our right," he said.

If the Park Service enforces the camping ban, Knight said he plans to sleep on the sidewalk like many homeless people do around downtown Washington.

"If they have a few hundred people sleeping on the sidewalks in this city, I think it'll make quite an impression," he said. "We already have thousands of people living on the streets in this country, a large portion of whom are veterans."

If he's arrested, he said, "I'll be back again tomorrow."

The Occupy protest needs to remain "to keep the conversation open," he said.

At McPherson Square seven blocks away park spokesman David Schlosser said that people are not allowed to camp so the first step of enforcement will be to remove bedding and other belongings. He said police gave protesters pamphlets informing them of the regulations. click here to read more

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