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Occupy DC demonstrators bolstered by migrating NYC Occupiers

By Paul Courson, CNN
updated 7:16 AM EST, Tue January 3, 2012
Demonstrators at an Occupy site in Washington have settled in as authorities allow their continued encampments.
Demonstrators at an Occupy site in Washington have settled in as authorities allow their continued encampments.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Occupy Wall Street demonstrators migrate south
  • Authorities extend permit in Washington, D.C.
  • Congressman questions continued forbearance

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Some "Occupy" demonstrators who've clashed with police in New York City have migrated south as the new year begins, joining their colleagues in the nation's capital where authorities continue to allow protest camps at two locations.

"We're here because we got pushed out of New York, but we're also here because this is the heart of where all politics happen," said a protester who would not give his name. "Police know me," he explained, as he tried to repair a tarp torn free by high winds early Monday.

He said he has been joined by a handful of other Occupy Wall Street demonstrators pushed out by New York police.

On New Year's Eve, New York City police arrested 68 Occupy Wall Street demonstrators at their longtime camp in Zuccotti Park.

Occupy London still standing

The young man, who said he left the Wall Street location weeks ago after authorities began to pressure protesters to leave, reflected on a strategy for the new year as he spoke Monday at the larger of two encampments in Washington -- at a small downtown park known as McPherson Square, near the White House .

"I think (the movement's) most important stage right now is to inform the American people, before we can give any kind of particular answer or one message," he said.

"This is still, relatively, in my opinion, a young movement, and I don't think it's so much that it's anybody having the same answers but everybody asking the same questions right now," he told CNN, speaking on camera with most of his face concealed by a heavy winter scarf.

Among the questions being asked include those from a ranking U.S. congressman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, demanding to know why protesters have been allowed to make camp in the first place. Issa, in a letter two weeks ago to the U.S. Department of Interior, said he believes the camping is illegal.

But the National Park Service, which is in charge of McPherson Square, has applied the most liberal interpretation of rules against overnight camping, and officials instead consider the makeshift tent city a "24-hour vigil.

A handwritten bulletin board maintained by the protesters Monday noted it is "Day 93" of the demonstration there.

At a second location in Washington, known as Freedom Plaza, the National Park Service in recent days extended a required permit through the end of February, acting just before it was to expire on New Year's Day.

The extension may further provoke Issa, who chairs a House panel on government reform. His December 13 letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar expressed concern that the tent city in McPherson Square has ruined some of a $400,000 restoration project at the park, paid for with economic stimulus money.

Issa said the National Park Service has allowed "the Occupy DC movement to ecologically damage the park significantly over the past two months, by camping and killing the newly planted grass" at the location.

Protest organizers and supporters have distributed straw around the tents to deal with mud that followed heavy rains last month. Other areas where grass remains now show signs of damage from the tents and tarps blocking sunlight.

National Park Service spokeswoman Carol Johnson told CNN the protesters in McPherson Square do not require a permit because their group contains fewer than 500 people and is considered a 24-hour vigil. Police in the area have said their enforcement so far has been to keep city streets clear of protesters, and to respond to petty crime that may take place around the camps.

CNN's Greg Seaby contributed to this report.

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