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Occupy DC Stays Put, Judge Clarifies Terms Of Camping Ban

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The "tent of dreams" that Occupy DC erected over the statue of General McPherson in McPherson Square Monday.
Armando Trull
The "tent of dreams" that Occupy DC erected over the statue of General McPherson in McPherson Square Monday.

Update, 5:00 p.m.: At the Occupy DC encampment in McPherson Square, protesters say they will let Park Police take down the giant blue tarp, known as the "tent of dreams."

The protesters had draped a tarp over the statue of General McPherson in the center of the park in response to the National Park SErvice decision to begin enforcing no-camping regulations. During a meeting this afternoon, the Occupy protesters agreed that while they wouldn't take down the tarp themselves, they wouldn't block the police from doing so.

The day has been relatively quiet at the Occupy DC camp -- there have not been any major actions by Park Police to evict or arrest anyone, although there was some commotion late this afternoon when an individual ran up to the giant tarp and started cutting the strings that were holding it in place. The person was chased off and later taken away by Park Police in a vehicle. It was unclear if he was arrested.

Other than that, proteters in the park say they are staying put despite the no-camping ban.

Update, 12:00 p.m.: A federal judge has told the National Park Service and the U.S. Park Police that they cannot seize the tents at McPherson Square or Freedom Plaza unless people in those tents are violating anti-camping regulations or breaking other laws.

In addition, the National Park Service cannot close McPherson Square or Freedom Plaza absent an emergency without prior notification and a written justification of why those closures are deemed necessary. However, the U.S. Park Service can move into either encampment at any time and make arrests of those who are in violation of those regulations.

Original Story: The Occupy DC encampment in McPherson Square is still in place, looking exactly as it did yesterday and two weeks ago despite a National Park Service ultimatum that the protesters decamp by noon yesterday. 

The only difference in the camp now is draped over the statue of General McPherson is a huge blue tarp with yellow stars and the words "Tent of Dreams." Underneath that tent scores of Occupy DC protesters slept early this morning, defying the no camping order. They say they will remain in place until they are forcibly moved by the U.S. Park Police. 

The protesters are also going to court again today to argue against the no-camping ban. 

"From my understanding what they're going to be arguing is that under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, the police don't have the right to seize our property and they do not have the right to arrest us for being in a public space and not committing any real crimes," says Sam Jeweler, one of the Occupy DC participants. 

In addition, the protesters are taking issue with categorizing what they are doing as camping, Jeweler adds. "To phrase what we're doing as camping is really dismissive of the fact that there are people who rely on the shelter here and the food here to survive," he says. 

U.S. Park Police have said they will enforce the ban against camping on the square, but they will do it incrementally.

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