Occupy D.C. protesters fail to block Northeast eviction; three injured

Several dozen protesters from the Occupy D.C. movement scuffled with police and U.S. marshals Tuesday while trying to block a home eviction in Northeast Washington.

D.C. police said there were no arrests after the “Occupy Our Homes” demonstration outside a house on Maryland Avenue. There were two injuries in the melee, including a protester who was knocked unconscious and taken to a hospital. Later, a deputy U.S. marshal was injured while breaking down the door, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service said.

The protesters stood in the yard and on the front steps of the home Tuesday morning, unfurling a large banner that declared the area an eviction-free zone, stacking milk crates in front of the door and chanting “Homes, not banks!” as the authorities attempted to enter the property. Ultimately, officers dragged the protesters away and a crew began moving furniture out and into the street.

The protesters were advocating on behalf of Dawn Butler, a University of Maryland cybersecurity student who had been living rent-free in the foreclosed home with two family members since 2006.

In recent months, Occupy movements from Minneapolis, Atlanta and New York have tried — with some success — to battle evictions in neighborhoods across the country. In February, Occupy D.C. helped a Bowie woman who was facing eviction save her house, and on Monday it rallied on behalf of a retired D.C. paramedic also fighting eviction.

The circumstances of Butler’s case are less clear-cut. She said she had a deal with the home’s original owner to live there without paying rent as she renovated the property and had tried several times to purchase it. But a judge in the District’s landlord-tenant court rejected this arrangement and ruled that Butler’s lease was invalid, prompting Tuesday’s eviction.

“I don’t like the fact that it happened,” Butler said. “I guess that we’ll continue to fight from afar.” Butler, her mother and a sister are moving in with relatives in Loudoun County, she said.

On Tuesday, as the eviction crew dragged dining chairs and a fake Christmas tree into the street, some Occupiers sat dejectedly on the furniture and others helped Butler box up items.

“Numbers on the street is what counts. Not numbers in ledgers,” said Ray Valentine, one of the protesters.

Staff writers Melissa Bell and Maggie Fazeli Fard contributed to this report.

Annie Gowen is The Post’s India bureau chief and has reported for the Post throughout South Asia and the Middle East.
Joe Heim is an editor and writer for The Washington Post magazine where he writes Just Asking, a weekly Q&A column. He has recently written about candy, not saving for your kids for college, Downton Abbey, the role of presidents as consolers-in-chief and about Washingtonians personal experiences with gun violence.
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