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GOP Presses NPS to Evict Occupiers

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
An Oversight and Government Reform subpanel hearing Tuesday aimed to determine the legal status of the Occupy DC protesters at McPherson Square and establish precedent for future protests.

When pushed by Gowdy to distinguish between "camping" and "protesting," Jarvis said that the former was defined as "sleeping or preparing to sleep," while the latter was characterized by a 24-hour vigil.

"Well, is there sleeping going on there?" Gowdy pressed. "Are they preparing to sleep or are they all insomniacs?"

There was, Jarvis conceded, "some camping" happening at McPherson Square and that sometime in the near future the NPS would have to issue a warning that camping will not be tolerated, under threat of arrests.

"We are about to enforce the camping regulations, but we are not evicting the occupiers under any circumstances, unless there is an emergency," he said.

Republicans weren't cheered by that news.

"You are turning a blind eye to four months of lawbreaking," Issa said.

The Oversight and Government Reform Committee has a unique jurisdiction in this case, overseeing the workings of a federal agency and District affairs simultaneously. D.C. officials do not have the authority to police McPherson Square because of its status as a federal park, but local officials have weighed in from the standpoint of public safety.

Quander, for instance, cautioned that protesters' tactics could escalate and become more aggressive. Mayor Vincent Gray recently called for Jarvis to evict protesters for a major cleanup of the area, and Akhter said as the cold weather approached, it was "only a matter of time" before outbreaks of "communicable disease, hypothermia or food-borne illness" would occur.

In a rare rebuke of local officials from her position as a nonvoting Member of Congress, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) challenged Quander and Akhtar not to suggest that D.C. is bearing the financial brunt of the Occupy DC activities.

"You are very fortunate that we have been able to get you the funds so this does not cost the city a dime," Norton said.

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