“Appearing before a House oversight subcommittee, National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis fielded pointed questions from Republican lawmakers about why camping has been allowed since early October in the small park near the White House.
He conceded that protesters have been sleeping in tents and that no one has been cited for it, reflecting a cautious approach by park police to bringing Occupy D.C. in compliance with all regulations. Occupy D.C. protesters will get a final warning before the camping ban is enforced.
“Each of our First Amendment demonstrations (is) a little bit unique. And this one is, let’s say, unprecedented. The core of their First Amendment activity is that they occupy the site,” Jarvis said. “We felt that going in right away and enforcing the regulations against camping could potentially incite a reaction on their part that would result in possible injury or property damage.”
The park service contends that protesters are allowed to maintain a 24-hour vigil in the park, and Jarvis cited other examples of long-running vigils on park service property in the nation’s capital, including a sit-in by farmers with tractors on the National Mall in 1979 and an ongoing one-person, 30-year vigil against nuclear proliferation in Lafayette Square across from the White House.
Once enforcement begins, protesters will not be required to leave the park, but the park service will encourage them to sleep elsewhere, Jarvis said later through a spokesman. Individuals found to be camping will receive civil citations, said the spokesman, David Barna.”
This is disingenuous on the part of the National Park Service (NPS) director, Jon Jarvis.
The “ongoing one-person, 30-year vigil” Jarvis is speaking of (above) is Concepcion’s peace vigil in Lafayette Square park across from the White House, which the NPS knows has been granted a special exception to the laws governing vigils that are currently held on park property. Concepcion was grandfathered-in, under the old laws, which allowed for camping. Today, we are not allowed to camp in the parks.
If NPS director Jarvis is correct, then we can all join Concepcion’s vigil in Lafayette Square. If Jarvis is not correct, then we should not allow the NPS to get away with holding up Concepcion’s vigil as though it were an example of that which the NPS says “protesters are allowed to maintain”.
I have had little good to say about the Occupy Movement, because of its philosophy and strategy; however, there are many fine people who have been and are involved with the occupations at the grass-roots level, which is a phenomenon I have found both positive and encouraging. From my experience, with Occupy DC in McPherson Square, I think the occupiers in DC (and everywhere else) should be allowed to re-occupy their park(s) so long as they do two (2) things:
1) Continue working with the homeless as a top priority;
2) Continue working to keep the parks sanitary.
Addendum: My note to the NPS concerning the MLK Memorial in DC
TO: National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, 900 Ohio Drive SW, Washington, DC 20024
Re: Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (National Mall and Memorial Parks)
From: A. J. MacDonald, Jr. (Somewhere in Washington, DC)
BE ADVISED: My Dr. King REALITY TOUR will begin soon after Easter.
You have been warned/advised.
I strongly suggest you STOP LYING to the kids who visit Dr. King’s memorial, who come from all over America.
I have been inspired by Dr. King ever since he was shot, through the neck, in Memphis, in 1968, when I was eight years old. I was lied to for many years and had to discover the UGLY TRUTH on my own, and I can no longer tolerate the USG’s (and your) lies concerning the TRUTH about my hero.
Therefore I will begin telling the American people, and the kids who come from all over America, the TRUTH, beginning very soon, from just as close as I am allowed to get to the memorial, which is very close.
♥ “No lie can live forever” ~ (the late) Dr. King ♥
P.S. We have even more in store for you and the USG this summer. Enjoy the spring while you can!