Freedom Plaza protesters may or may not stay
(ABC7, AP) Demonstrators who have spent five days camping in downtown Washington to protest war and other causes say they've requested a four-month extension of their permit. However, a spokesman for the National Park Service says nothing has been finalized.
Protester Kevin Zeese met with park officials Monday to discuss an extension. He says the group sent an e-mail Monday evening requesting the change after the group's original permit expired.
Zeese says park service officials sent a reply saying they would send the group's request through an approval process. Zeese says that demonstrators who've talked with park service officials believe that's a formality.
Park Service spokesman Bill Line said Tuesday he was not aware of the e-mail request and that nothing had been finalized.
"The idea that that National Park Service has given this group to stay at freedom plaza for four months is erroneous," Bill Line said. "There was no commitment to this group that the permit would be extended four months."
The park service has not received of the paperwork required to stay at the site. Everything has been verbal at this point.
Meanwhile, protesters say that they're planning a flash mob at the Hart Senate Office Building at 11:30 a.m., ABC7's Suzanne Kennedy reports.
At a meeting with protest organizers on Monday, Park Service offered the extension of their permit, which expired yesterday. Under cheers, protesters voted to accept the extension.
“I expect more people will be coming down here now, they know it's safe and legal, we're going to see this grow continuously,” said Kevin Zeese, an organizer.
While the dozens of sleeping tents violate the permit, so far they've been allowed to stay. Passersby stopped to check out the protest camp Monday.
“I don't really think it takes four months to get a message across, but if that's what they want to do, and that's what it takes for them to do I think that's ok,” said David Lozano of Silver Spring.
“Americans need to voice their opinions, and I think we are being listened too,” said tourist Deborah Scott.
They plan to protest inside and outside of that building, aiming to disrupt Congressional operations.
The protest at Freedom Plaza began Friday with a march to the White House and down K Street. Over the weekend protestors clashed with security guards at the Air and Space Museum.
By Monday, the number of protestors had dwindled from hundreds to dozens, with reporters often outnumbering protestors. The Taste of D.C. festival a few feet away is drawing tourists.
Most of the protesters are either students, retired citizens or unemployed, some, like Eric Lotke of Arlington, are balancing work and family.