Police surround ‘Occupy DC’ site in Washington

Police officers scuffle with an Occupy DC protester
© AFP Jewel Samad

AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Police swarmed into an anti-Wall Street encampment in Washington on foot and horseback Sunday and arrested around two dozen protesters near a large wooden structure that had been erected overnight.

Officers from the US Park Police arrived at 11:30 am at McPherson Square, just two few blocks from the White House and where demonstrators have been living in tents since late September, prompting a standoff.

A police officer on condition of anonymity told AFP that “more than 20” people had been arrested, but six protesters were still clinging to the 25-feet (eight metres) tall, roofless structure seven hours after the incident began.

Protesters put the number of arrests at 24.

Several dozen park police, some on horseback, backed by District of Columbia officers surrounded the structure in the square, the focal point of Occupy DC. An armored truck arrived shortly after 6:30 pm and officers appeared to be attempting to talk the last six protesters down from the building.

Despite moves to evict “Occupy” protesters from similar sites in New York and other cities, authorities in the US capital have generally refrained from taking action against the village of tents and tarps that has sprung up here.

A police officer said the structure that sparked the confrontation was illegal and a second officer told AFP the people who remained on its wooden beams had been given three warnings that they were subject to arrest.

Angelica Gatewood said the wooden building was meant to be “an emergency heating shelter for the winter,” which is just beginning to bite in Washington, but another protester said the structure was jeopardizing Occupy DC’s aims.

“This building was an effort to provide winter quarters but nevertheless it may have put the rest of the camp at risk,” said Jim Fussell, a 49-year-old father of two from Arlington, Virginia.

The anti-Wall Street movement, born in New York in mid-September, is trying to redefine itself, as permission to camp in public spaces is being rapidly curtailed.

The loosely organized, left-leaning Occupy Wall Street protesters insist they are exercising their freedom of speech in the run-up to November 2012 national elections.

Along with the Zuccotti Park eviction in November, police cleared out protesters this week in Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

There have also been evictions in Dallas, New Orleans, Oakland and Portland, and some clashes with police.

© AFPPublished at Activist Post with license

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