The Occupy encampments in the nation’s capital—there are actually two, one at Freedom Plaza and one at McPherson Square—have so far enjoyed a really smooth ride, compared to the violent police action and evictions visited upon encampments from New York City to Oakland.
But that may be changing soon: a spate of bad press has led Washington’s mayor, Vincent Gray, to ask the federal Park Service to evict the encampment at McPherson Square. There has been an increasing problem with rats at that camp, which are apparently attracted by the food there, and burrowing in the ground or in the bales of hay some Occupiers are using to pad sleeping stations.
The encampment voluntarily shut down the kitchen there after a visit from the DC health department, and (correctly) argues that rats have always been a problem in downtown DC, but the mayor is not satisfied. There was also an incident last week in which a 13-month-old was left alone in a tent, with temperatures in the 40s, which created a minor public outcry in local news outlets.
Grey is, no doubt, a liberal who is also familiar with civil disobedience—he was arrested last year at the US Capitol in a protest over the federal budget cuts, which prevented the district from spending its money on abortion services for low-income women. He said such measures “violated the rights of district residents to autonomy and self-determination.”
But the Park Service is also feeling pressure from the right—Representative Darrell Issa has been pestering the feds for over a month to clear out the Occupy encampments, cheekily citing alleged damage to recent park improvements that were funded by the 2009 stimulus package.
Occupy DC is already branching out—they plan meetings with members of Congress next week, an Occupy Our Homes effort and rallies at the Federal Reserve. (We will have coverage of those efforts here). But the encampments might not be long for the District.