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Posted at 05:45 PM ET, 01/30/2012

Occupy D.C. overnight camping ban begins (Live updates)

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Early morning updates

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The “tent of dreams”


9:00 p.m.: Protesters settle in for the night

Dozens are buzzing outside of the tents filling up in McPherson Square as the remainders of vegetable ratatouille and rice are distributed in red plastic bowls. One man climbs atop the statue of James B. McPherson, shrouded in a blue tarp, and kisses him. Inside the tarp, a scrabble game is being played. Outside, a homeless man and an Occupier are battling each other in chess. Surrounding them are a number of supporters who have never slept at McPherson Square but have come on this night in anticipation of the police's next move.


5:45 p.m.: Sun sets on quiet Occupy camps

Giant blue tarp aside, the sun was setting on a mostly uneventful Monday for Occupy D.C. protesters. Some protesters are saying they’ve “won,” while others are suspicious of the currently quiet presence of Park Service officers. Stay with PostLocal for further updates throughout the night, or watch the live video stream of McPherson Square here.

4:40 p.m.: Protesters clash with Fox News

Though the protesters often complain about the mainstream media in their social media posts, one channel definitely holds the title of Least Favorite: Fox News. Amid the many news trucks and media personalities at McPherson Square, the Fox News reporters were cursed at by protesters and, at one point, the group tried to have the news van moved by the police for parking in front of a fire hydrant.

The main Twitter feed of the Occupy group reported the protesters chanting “Tow the truck!” until the news channel van finally moved. “The van is moving now. Freedom of fire hydrants is restored. Occupy: 1 Fox: Zero!”

Owly Images

3:45 p.m.: Department of Homeland Security present at McPherson Square, tased protester released

Protesters tweeted pictures of DHS officers keeping an eye on activities at McPherson Square on Monday afternoon. Meanwhile, the man subdued with a Taser by Park Police officers Sunday had rejoined the crowd. Here’s a tweet about the man, known only as “Lash,” from the people behind the Occupy D.C. live stream:

3:12 p.m.: Quiet compliance at Freedom Plaza

Protesters at the Freedom Plaza encampment are keeping their tent flaps open, a nod to the Park Service’s requirements that they refrain from sleeping inside the structures.

Timothy Strayer, 55, of San Francisco had assembled his belongings neatly inside his green and orange dome-style tent. His sleeping bag was rolled and his clothes were in a bag. Two bibles sat on the tent floor. He believed that as long as his tent did not appear set up for sleeping, police would leave it alone.

But if police ask him to pack up, Strayer said, he will comply. But “to be honest with you, I don’t think anything’s going to happen tonight. I think it’s a bluff. I still think we’re going to be okay.”

3:05 p.m.: Explore Occupy DC: The New Town Square

As people settle in for what looks to be a long night ahead, explore what Occupy DC McPherson Square looked like at the height of its occupation. Click here to see the library, watering station, kitchen and more. To get to know the people protesting, check out these video postcards from the square.

2:14 p.m.: General McPherson’s “Tent of Dreams”

For the Occupy D.C. protesters at McPherson Square, the large statute of Gen. James Birdseye McPherson looming over the camp has played the part of protest prop for much of the 122 days of occupation. The statue has been decorated, rallied around and now stands blanketed in a large tarp the protesters are calling the “Tent of Dreams.” Read about the tent here.


A protester braved a potentially dangerous climb to place a banner and a mask on the statue of Gen. McPherson. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

1:34 p.m.:Thousands sign online petition to save Occupy D.C.

In the hours after a protester was tased by Park Police officers and arrested Sunday, 18,585 people logged on to SaveOccupyDC.org to sign an online petition asking the Park Service to allow protesters to continue camping in either park.

1:20 p.m.: Police: Enforcement ongoing

Media have gathered around Park Police Sgt. David Schlosser for an update. He said enforcement has begun and it’s ongoing. There have been no arrests and no timeline for arrests. Here’s a bird’s eye view of the media briefing:
(Michael Bolden)

1:11 p.m.: Party atmosphere at McPherson Square

About 40 of the protesters are underneath a giant tarp thrown over the statue of Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson, telling reporters that they are willing to be arrested, but there’s minimal police presence at the square. Police are most likely waiting until nightfall to enforce the sleeping ban, though Park Police Sgt. David Schlosser will be giving a statement shortly.

Occupiers are enjoying their moment in the spotlight, turning the park into a protest party. Speakers blast Rage Against the Machine, and A.J. Chavar snapped this photo of protesters breakdancing:
(A.J. Chavar )

12:56 p.m.: Freedom Plaza calm

As opposed to the raucous displays at McPherson Square, Freedom Plaza was mostly quiet. The Post’s Paul Duggan reports that there are more empty tents and onlookers than demonstrators. Many tents were open and mostly empty. Outside one, sleeping gear was loaded neatly into a shopping cart.

Jerry Jackson, 32, of Lakewood, Fla., was one of the few demonstrators there. Jackson, who runs the Freedom Plaza kitchen, described a group that was waiting to see what would happen later when police arrived.

“We’re going to do what we have to do,” Jackson said. “We’re complying by the rules. That’s the most important thing. We want to show them we’re not going to start a fight. But we’re not going to back away either.”

It’s unclear what will happen at Freedom Plaza when night falls. Demonstrators said they would meet to discuss their plans later in the day, and they were considering standing in a ring around the park or another type of demonstration. Police are expected to inspect the tents, and may seize sleeping gear as evidence.

12:30 p.m.: McPherson Square from above

Seen from above, The Post’s Michael Bolden captured this image from an apartment overlooking McPherson Square
(Michael Bolden)

12:23 p.m.: Inside the “tent of dreams”

Post videographer A.J. Chavar snapped this photo from inside the tent protesters erected in the middle of McPherson Square:
(A.J. Chavar/The Washington Post)

12:05 p.m.: The overnight camping ban begins

The U.S. Park Police began a camping ban in McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza at noon Monday. Protesters must remove all signs of camping, including bedding and storage equipment; if they don’t, they risk arrest.

Instead of leaving, protesters chose instead to erect a giant tent over the main statue in McPherson Square. The protesters gathered in a fenced-off circle in front of the tent and faced off with a growing crowd of onlookers and a huge media presence. “If they have to arrest one of us they'll have to arrest all of us,” protesters told The Post’s Annie Gowen.
(A.J. Chavar)

10 a.m.: Preparations for a showdown with police underway

A moving truck had arrived to store belongings for protesters who would attempt to remain in the park without camping materials. About a dozen protesters were moving their tents from the periphery to the center of the park, disregarding the fenced-off core around the statue of Gen. James McPherson.

8 a.m.: Few protesters appear to be breaking down camp

Just two demonstrators were folding up tents shortly before 8 a.m., and many others were asleep. An hour later, more demonstrators were awake but few were breaking down their tents.

But there are indications that the situation may escalate later in the day. In signs and graffiti, many campers have signaled an unwillingness to leave the encampment, which has been in the park since October. Graffiti covers many of the eviction notices spread around the square: “Not happening” was scribbled on one.
James, who chose not to give his full name, smokes a cigarette after waking up in his tent. (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

“Evicted from home by the banks; Evicted from the tents by the police,” reads one painted sign.


Background:

Tensions between protesters and law enforcement increased Sunday. Around midday, police subdued a protester in McPherson Square with a Taser, and several protesters accused the police of using excessive force, saying the demonstrator had been handcuffed by two police officers before a third used the device to stun him.

For a FAQ on the eviction, click here.

Tweets:

Park Police had been passing out fliers warning of the deadline to begin enforcing a long-standing ban on camping overnight in the square — and also in nearby Freedom Plaza, where another group has set up camp.

This item has been updated.

By and  |  05:45 PM ET, 01/30/2012

 
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