- Eight people have been arrested, including one for felony assault
- An Occupy DC demonstrator failed this week in a court bid to overturn the ban
- Occupy DC is part of a larger activist movement that began last year in New York
Dressed in yellow full-body sanitation suits, members of the U.S. Park Police combed through tents in the Occupy DC camp Saturday, taking down ones violating park policies.
The owners of the tossed tents and other protesters were agitated by the move, but there was little unrest at McPherson Square in downtown Washington.
Park police in riot gear first entered at dawn Saturday, and said they were not there to evict protesters, but to check for compliance with "no camping" laws.
Still, at one point, there was a confrontation between protesters and riot police.
The move comes after a federal judge Tuesday rejected an Occupy DC demonstrator's request to keep park police from enforcing a ban on camping in McPherson park and nearby Freedom Plaza.
Living in a public park as a means of protest is not protected by the First Amendment, Judge James Boasberg ruled.
The operation was a success and a majority of those in the park cooperated with police, park police spokesman David Schlosser said.
Eight people were arrested in the confrontation with police, he said. Four for failure to obey a lawful order, and three for crossing a police line. Another person was arrested for felony assault on an officer and assault with a deadly weapon after Schlosser said the man threw a brick at one of the officers. The officer was treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, Schlosser said.
"The United States Park Police continue to support the right of people to exercise their constitutionally protected rights," he said.
Protesters heckled him as he briefed reporters early Saturday. As he spoke, the officer was interrupted by someone who made a rooster sound, and others made ghost-like noises in the background.
"In some of the tents we found urine-soaked bedding materials, bottles of urine," noted Schlosser. "In some of the tents we found some dead rats. We also found some live rats, with some rat families."
Authorities told protesters Monday that they had to remove camping gear such as sleeping bags and housekeeping materials, but could keep their tents as long as one flap remains open at all times.
On Saturday, police began removing the tents from the park that had camping gear inside. Protesters complained and accused the officers of taking down tents that were not in violation. At the outset of their search, police found only one compliant tent, and took down there rest.
Once the inspection is complete, the park will be reopened to the public, Schlosser said.
Occupy DC is part of a larger activist movement that began last year in New York and quickly spread across the country.
While the protesters have highlighted a number of causes, the overarching theme has remained largely the same: populist anger over what activists portray as an out-of-touch corporate, financial and political elite.