As I mentioned in yesterdays blog comments, there was a bit of a kerfluffle at Occupy DC yesterday. Apparently those at the McPherson square encampment decided in the wee hours of Sunday morning to build what they called a People's Pavilion:
As would be expected, the Police gave the occupiers notice that they had to dismantle the structure. According to Local radio station, WTOP
United States Park Police arrested 31 people over the course of the day, after the deadline passed for protesters to take down the barn-like structure. Fifteen people are charged with crossing a police line, and 16 are charged with disobeying an official order, according to U.S. Park Police spokesman David Schlosser.
During the standoff, an inspector posted a notice on the structure, which Park Police say is in violation of park rules.
Metropolitan Police SWAT officers arrived Sunday afternoon to help Park Police remove the occupiers who had taken up camp on or inside the wooden structure.
Police told protesters Sunday morning they needed a permit for the wood structure that resembles a partially built shed or barn and gave them an hour to disassemble it. The group was given a deadline of 11:45 a.m. to take down the structure.
When I first heard about it, I went to this site
to see what all the fuss was about, as the radio was reporting that they built something there. As you can see in the above picture, it was a large structure -- about 14-15 feet tall. At first I heard that it was supposed to be a place where the GA's could be held, then I heard it was for the homeless -- I heard and read a lot of things. However, according to the OWS link I just posted, there is this:
The wooden structure was specifically designed by architects to be safe and to comply with DC regulations, and meets the "temporary structure" standard. It is "prefabricated, modular and mobile structure - legally similar to the tents." It lacks a foundation and can be taken down in under an hour. As such, it does not violate city ordinances. According to @OccupyKSt,
Problem is -- DC doesn't have regulations that allow for people to build a structure on park property. Did I mention that this was not a small structure?
I read reports that had the structure been put on wheels -- it might have passed inspection. Still...
Now I understand the idea behind this act. What I don't understand is why they thought they could get away with this. There were reports that the GA was divided with what to do after the evacuation order came down from police. As I said on my FB page, Occupy DC was one of the last of the large encampments around the country. We all have heard and read of the police brutality. It's really awful. Yesterday in DC there were 31 arrests. A Cherry Picker was brought in to remove those that chose to occupy the roof of the structure. SWAT teams from the DC metro police department ( remember -- McPherson Square is under the National Park Police' jurisdiction) were also called in.
Things got very tense, as would be expected. Ultimately, the structure was torn down. McPherson Square is still occupied, which does come to my surprise. I think that part is amazing, to be really honest. I understand this is a protest -- I understand that the nature of protest means risking arrest -- what I don't understand is why they spend 1400 dollars on this structure, and were surprised that it would be torn down? And then there is this: One person was arrested for public urination. Really
By the end of the evening, 31 people had been arrested, according to a spokesman for the United States Park Police: 15 for crossing a police line and 16 for disobeying a lawful order after the structure was declared unsafe, the spokesman said. Of those, one was charged with indecent exposure, among other things, for urinating while atop the structure.
One of the protesters landed with a flamboyant somersault on the inflated mattress. He was arrested as onlookers cheered as if he were a gymnast who had just stuck a landing. A few more protesters were then removed one at a time in the cherry picker basket. With the removal of the last protester, the occupation of the structure came to an end around 8:30 p.m. Within an hour of the last arrest, the structure was being hauled away in pieces. The police did hand back to the protesters a flag that they had flown from the peak of the roof.
I have to be really honest with you here. I'm not worried if people disagree with me, because I am still trying to process this. I'm trying very much to not sound like a poopoo-er here. I just don't see how this stunt advanced the cause of the Occupy movement. It looked silly to me. It looks like this movement is about income disparity and the corruption that we see in this country. It appears to me that this structure -- designed by an architect, as they stated -- was built to be torn down. That seems like a terrible waste of resources and energy that could have, somehow (I don't have answers -- just many questions) been put to better use. No one is going to be won over by stunts like this. Once again -- this is my opinion at this point. I am willing to be won over.
As far as DHS being involved with trying to destroy encampments: it appears that in DC that is not the case. They were not removed as of this morning. So let me once again, make my feelings clear: Occupy has purpose. I support Occupy but I question the path. But this... this doesn't make sense. I am feeling a serious disconnect here. Here is a comment from the OWS link:
It is never necessary in America for the police to suppress the freedom of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
there is something rotten when this kind of harassment, arrest, restriction of speech and movement happens in America. It is tragic and un-American!
The real crime, the crime of the century just played out right in front of our eyes. We need some accountability and indictments need to be brought against the real criminals on Wall Street. Arresting Americans for exercising our constitutional rights is absurd while the ones who stole billions of “hardworking taxpayer’s” money - under the guise of “too big to fail” - walk free and receive bonuses from the people’s tax revenue.
Those of you who disparage OWS are either part of the 1% or you are woefully uninformed of American Constitutional rights.
Yes. I agree. I really do. EXCEPT...
There are reasons why we have zoning laws and regulations in America. Occupy DC chose (it appears) to ignore that when they built this barn. Please note that I mentioned laws and regulations. I don't think you can change the laws and regulations when you break them in the same breath as saying others are doing the same thing. Yes, people in America are being pissed on while being told it is just rain. Yes, deregulation of the banking industry is what got us here.
No, doing what they did yesterday is not going to help change the status quo. This just looked foolish. It looks petulant and won't win hearts and minds to the cause.
$1400 would have gone a long way to feed the homeless during this time of the year.