Update: Occupy DC issued a statement Friday saying it's willing to work with the city to deal with a rat infestation and other problems. But the group says it doesn't plan to move, and calls any attempt to evict them “counterproductive to ensuring the safety of occupiers.”
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray called on the National Park Service to remove the demonstrators from the square on Thursday, citing health risks. He proposed consolidating the protesters with another encampment at Freedom Plaza.
The National Park Service has jurisdiction over both sites and says the protesters are exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech.
Original story: D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray wants to close down the Occupy DC camp in McPherson Square, but the U.S. Park Service, which polices the square, has so far declined to do so.
Gray wrote a letter to the U.S. Park Service Thursday that minces no words, and calls conditions at the Occupy DC encampment "unsanitary." The mayor adds that the rat infestation that has afflicted the square for the past few weeks poses a health and safety risk.
Gray wants the Park Service to remove the 100 or so tents and protesters and transfer them to Freedom Plaza, where another protest encampment has been in place for months. That way, the mayor argues, the rat infestation at McPherson Square can be dealt with and the square restored.
The Park Service, however, has not indicated whether it will do so. There is a standing order from a federal judge saying neither the protesters nor their belongings can be removed from the square without 24 hours notice.
Gray's letter came just one day after U.S. Park Police found a 13-month-old child left alone in a tent amid the Occupy DC encampment. Samuel Mack of Forestville, Md. was released Thursday, the day after police say the 39-year-old left the girl in a tent on a rainy day when the temperature was in the mid-40s.
Park police say officers were called to the Occupy DC camp after other people in the park heard the girl crying. Authorities believe the girl had been left along for at least 30 minutes. The child was turned over to the D.C. child and family services agency, but is now with relatives.