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Advertise on the Tentacle

January 13, 2012

Get Out of My Park

Joe Charlebois

What does the occupy movement have that others don’t? They have a free rein to encamp on federal property – National Park Service (NPS) land – that would not be afforded to any other group.


The NPS has either been threatened to allow the protests to go forward by President Barack Obama’s Interior Department, or are sympathetic to the “fight.”


The protestors that call for accountability and decry the special treatment for the so called “1%,” are themselves not being held accountable for violating the Code of Federal Regulations that 99.99% of Americans would be locked up or fined for doing.


According to the Code of Federal Regulations, Public Use Limits Section strictly prohibits the use of tents for the purpose of camping in the National Capital Area NPS. There is no exception for this type of use. You cannot apply for permission to camp.


Since early October the “Occupy” movement has disregarded this rule and many other rules that have led to a number of issues.


The latest issue to come to the fore has been the abandonment and neglect of a13-month old infant who is a son of one the protestors. The child was found by other protestors unattended in one of the occupy tents. The father has since been arrested.


The Code of Federal Regulations also prohibits the construction of any buildings on park land. The Occupiers in DC’s McPherson Square built a makeshift and more permanent structure to battle the elements as winter approached. When approached to remove the shed the occupiers refused and 30 were subsequently arrested.


According to reports just days later a U.S. Park Police Officer responded to a report of a fight within one of the tents. The lawlessness continued as the officer was attacked and kicked in the groin so violently it caused him to vomit.


Of the two primary “Occupy” sites in Washington, McPherson Square has had growing safety and health issues. The open kitchens and poor hygiene have promoted an infestation of rats. They have since closed down their kitchens. But the issue still remains.


At this point the National Park Service has stated that they will not evict the occupiers unless under reasons of public health (disease), or public safety (weather) the site becomes too dangerous.


The “authority” that runs this Washington commune has set guidelines for the occupiers. From the Occupy DC website here are the “Square Guidelines”:


These guidelines were condensed upon by the General Assembly at Occupy DC-K Street based on proposals by the Safe Occupation committee and the Guidelines Super Committee.


1.)    Respect each other, each others’ stuff and space.


2.)    Practice nonviolence and respect for all.


3.)    Be mindful of how individual actions can affect the movement, the group, or other individuals.


4.)    Be mindful of how the consequences of actions can affect individuals differently based on risk factors (such as race, class, gender identification, immigration status, etc).


5.)    We consider working class police officers a part of the 99%. However we will not carry out or enforce their orders that jeopardize the safety of other residents of McPherson Park. We will strive to maintain each other’s safety without relying on the police.


6.)    Do not inhibit others from being able to speak.


7.)    Speak in ways that communicate effectively.


8.)    Be aware of your own aggressive tendencies and respectfully check others’ aggressive behavior.


9.)    Keep this space clean.


10.) Don’t assume anyone’s gender. When possible go with gender neutral pronouns and nouns, such as friend/comrade instead of brother/sister.


11.) While Occupy DC is reclaiming public space for the public, we will be respectful of others who live in and use these spaces on a daily basis.


12.) Be considerate of resources, especially for those who need it the most.


13.) Be an ally. Take care of yourselves and your friends/siblings/homies in the struggle.


14.) People with animals: Please check your animals. Some of us love animals but not everyone does. Be respectful of people’s different comfort levels with animals.


15.) Be aware and sensitive to people’s experiences, e.g. traumatic ones. Give a “trigger warning” before you talk about traumatic experiences or describe violence, etc.


16.) Practice consent – Check before touching or photographing someone (if you shoot something, say something). Just because we’re in a public space doesn’t mean we want to be photographed.


The Occupy DC movement – besides breaking the law by disobeying Federal Code – has disregarded many of its own “Guidelines,” which they passed in their Safe Occupation and Super Committees.


First, they have refused to respect others’ “stuff and space.” They are occupying a public park owned by all Americans.


They have shown little respect for the U.S. Park Police officer who occupiers attacked when coming to the aid of someone in distress.


They have not kept the park clean and health concerns hang over the Square as an ever-growing rat infestation has shut down the kitchen operations. There is technically no health department that has authority over McPherson Square because it is part of the National Park Service, which has no need for one since they usually don’t allow squatters to set up camp and play house.


The 11th guideline is particularly troubling. It states that McPherson Square is public space and that the Occupy movement is reclaiming it for the public. The have not reclaimed anything for the public interest. They have simply claimed public property for their own selfish desires.


Use of the park is just as much any citizen of the United States’ right to use as it is for those currently breaking federal law by squatting on the property.


This is an abuse of public space; it is destructive to the park grounds, and limits one’s ability to visit the park. The “occupiers” have denied access to one of Washington’s NPS parks for the public to use. They occupy the park for their movement, not the 99%.


We want it back.


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