D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray has formally asked the federal government to reimburse the District for costs associated with the Occupy D.C. demonstrations, saying the “decisions that led to these ongoing protests were made entirely by the National Park Service.”
Gray (D) made the request in a letter Friday to Jonathan B. Jarvis, director of the National Park Service.
In the letter, Gray said the District was never “consulted” about whether Occupy D.C. protesters should have been allowed to establish encampments at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza, both of which are property of the National Park Service.
“In neither case was the District consulted on the long-term appropriateness of long-term protesters inhabiting these two properties,” Gray wrote.
Gray’s letter appears to be a marked shift in attitude toward the Occupy protesters. For most of the past two months, Gray has stressed he was sympathetic with the goals of the movement and said he believed in the protesters’ First Amendment rights to demonstrate in the nation’s capitol.
Although Gray does not directly ask Jarvis to remove the protesters, the mayor said the city should be reimbursed for the costs associated with police “overtime, public sanitation, and park and street maintainer.” As of Dec. 1, Gray wrote, the Occupy D.C. protesters have cost the District $1.64 million.
“Director Jarvis, this is unfair, and it must be corrected immediately,” Gray wrote. “On behalf of the District of Columbia, I am a requesting a full and complete reimbursement for all costs ... Our citizens cannot be expected to pay for a consequence in which they had no say.”
A Park Service spokesman was not immediately available to comment. But Gray’s request could run into some resistance. Though the federal government has reimbursed the District for costs associated with some past events, such as President Obama’s 2008 inauguration, those were largely unique to the nation’s capital. In this case, Gray is asking to be reimbursed for a event similar to one that has occurred in dozens of major cities across the country since the Occupy Wall Street movement began in late September.
Also, in the early days of the protest, a majority of D.C. Council members were quoted as saying the Park Service should allow the protesters to remain in the park. Gray’s letter also conflicts with past statements from National Park Service officials. In October, both the Park Police officials and Bob Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorials Park, told the Washington Post that mayor’s office was involved in discussions about the future of the Occupy camps.