Congressional hearing on Occupy D.C. encampment
(AP, ABC7) - The head of the National Park Service says Occupy DC protesters will get one final warning before U.S. Park Police begin to enforce the ban on camping in McPherson Square.
Jonathan Jarvis testified Tuesday at a hearing of a House oversight subcommittee.
He says the camping ban will be enforced "very soon."
"We've given them plenty of time to come into compliance," Jarvis said.
After the hearing, Jarvis clarified that enforcing the camping ban would not lead to a full-scale eviction of the Occupy DC encampment. He says protesters will continue to be permitted to exercise their First Amendment rights in McPherson Square 24 hours a day.
And he says camping regulations can only be enforced against individuals. Jarvis denied suggestions by Republican lawmakers that the Obama administration is pressuring the park service to allow the protesters to remain.
Since October, Occupy D.C. protesters have pitched their tents at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza. There have been issues of rat infestation and some arrests of misconduct. But unlike in most other cities, protesters have been allowed to stay.
D.C. officials testified that numbers have been dwindling from a height of 150 people at Freedom Plaza to 30-40 people and from 250 people at McPherson Square down to 25-50.
In a statement released on their website, Occupy protesters expressed their displeasure at not being able to speak for themselves.
"Like so many Americans whose voices are not heard in the halls of Congress, we have been precluded from speaking today on a matter that directly concerns us," protesters said in a statement on OccupyDC.org.
"That we have to ask a member of Congress to speak here for us is symbolic of the disenfranchising top-down nature of the government we are fighting to democratize. "
Occupy D.C. participants say in a statement that they're happy to work with Park Service and city officials to improve conditions in the square.