Freedom Plaza protesters granted permit extension through Feb. 28

(Photo: Flickr/seyre)

(ABC7, AP) - The protesters who've pitched tents in Freedom Plaza in the nation's capital since October have a permit to extend their stay through the end of February.

National Park Service spokeswoman Carol Johnson says the group originally known as Stop the Machine,{ }now known as Occupy Washington DC, filed an application for a new permit that runs from Jan. 1 through Feb. 28, and the application was granted.

Should authorities have extended the permit? Take our poll here.

Sarah Hines is unemployed and has chosen to protest her economic situation by joining the movement.

She says the longer they stay, the more they get their message out.

“If we weren't in the public eye, if we weren't in a public space it would be harder for people to come to us, talk to us. Get our message and take it outward” she says.

But there's concern that this long term demonstration and another at McPherson Square is draining police resources.

The District's police union says crime is up 17 percent between November and December because officers aren't able to patrol neighborhoods.

In early October, the Park Service gave protesters an extension through the end of December. Now, the protest will be allowed to go on well into 2012.

At the same time, though, Johnson says a permit has also been issued to the National Center for Public Policy Research for a counter-protest from Feb. 12-March 15.

The group at Freedom Plaza now calls itself Occupy Washington D.C. They are protesting corporate greed and the continued presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and their current permit expires Dec. 30.

There's a similar, larger protest encampment a few blocks away in McPherson Square called Occupy D.C.

People in downtown D.C. have mixed opinions about whether the occupiers should be allowed to remain. One man, Bruce Lockard, said he didn’t mind seeing the protesters and wasn’t bothered by them.

But not everyone agreed.

They've overdone their welcome,” says Jay Carleton. “They need to be kicked out of here and go start somewhere else.”

{ }