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Occupy DC says it's back at McPherson

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Photo - Occupy D.C. set up a temporary occupation in McPherson square, in preparation for the "Occupy Caravan" that arrives in Washington D.C., Thursday, June 28, 2012.
Occupy D.C. set up a temporary occupation in McPherson square, in preparation for the "Occupy Caravan" that arrives in Washington D.C., Thursday, June 28, 2012.
Local,Crime,Aubrey Whelan

A group identifying itself as a rebirth of Occupy DC moved back into McPherson Square Thursday, just two weeks after the last remnants of the protest movement were dragged away.

The group pitched three tents and erected a banner reading "Occupy DC: Here to Stay!" on a lawn that officials are just now restoring after an eight-month encampment. Protesters said they expect 100 to 200 additional people from an "Occupy caravan" to arrive on K Street on their way to a conference in Philadelphia Saturday.

The National Park Service blocked off much of McPherson to repair damage done by Occupy's tent city to the park's $400,000 renovation. Occupiers arrived in the park last October, but began to disperse earlier this year when Park Police began enforcing a camping ban. Two weeks ago, the last of the group's tents and signs were hauled away by the Park Service and office workers began returning to the square to eat or rest.

Some of returning protesters say they plan to stay indefinitely.

"We're restoring McPherson Square," said a protester who identified herself only as Nancy. "We're committed to stay in this park no matter what. It's our duty to take over public spaces to educate people."

Others say they'll be gone in a few days.

"For me, it's a daylong thing," said protester John Zangas. "I don't see that the old strategy of occupying parks indefinitely is the way to go. A periodic, temporary presence to distribute information is the best way to build rapport."

National Park Service spokeswoman Carol Johnson said protesters have a right to be in McPherson as long as they don't camp there.

"We will do what we always do with First Amendment demonstrations -- monitor and make sure people are following regulations," she said.

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