The National Park Service said they would enforce a ban at noon on “Occupy” protesters camping overnight in McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza.
Fears of potential clashes mounted after police used a stun gun Sunday on one protester, who was arrested on disorderly conduct charges. The deadline in Washington follows a new burst of unrest at “Occupy” protests in Oakland, California, over the weekend.
In a string of “Occupy” demonstrations across the United States since September, protesters have targeted the nation’s growing income gap, corporate greed and what they see as unfair tax structure favoring the richest 1 percent of Americans.
Just hours before the deadline early on Monday morning, plastic tarpaulins still blanketed the square block area of McPherson Square. Journalists outnumbered police officers.
As dawn broke, some protesters had already complied with the order to move their sleeping gear, but it remained unclear whether the encampment would be dismantled by the noon deadline.
In Freedom Plaza, protester Feriha Kaya said demonstrators were mixed over whether they will comply, but they agreed the ban on camping will not stop their efforts.
“Some said they would resist. Some said they won’t take their stuff out of the tents, and some will,” she said. “It will not stop anything of why we came here and what we have to do.”
Obama has seized on the debate to call for higher taxes on the richest Americans and has made economic inequality a central theme of his administration and bid for re-election.
Unlike in other cities, protesters in Washington have been able to stay in the parks since October. That has irked some city officials who are concerned about rats, trash and health issues.
It has also prompted some Republicans to suggest that the White House is supporting the protest and bending the rules by not enforcing the no-camping regulation for such federal parks.
National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis last week defended the agency’s handling of the protesters and pointed its large-scale protests during decades of demonstrations.
The Occupy protests had faded over the last few weeks but flared anew on Saturday when violence broke out in Oakland, California and 400 demonstrators were arrested during a night of skirmishes with police. Oakland has become a flashpoint of the protests and the arrests there were one of the largest mass detentions since the movement began.
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