It's no secret that the Department of Homeland Security has been monitoring the Occupy movement almost since its inception. But as it consulted with local law enforcement officials and kept tabs on occupations across the country, it largely ignored the protest in its own backyard: the two tent cities that made up Occupy DC.
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, a civil rights nonprofit, published on its website last week hundreds of pages of Homeland Security documents it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The nonprofit says the documents indicate the department engaged in intense scrutiny of the movement, consulting with officials from Los Angeles to Boston, advising field offices to prepare for violent protests in Oakland, Calif., and discussing the eviction of Occupy Portland with local officials.
But Occupy DC -- the protest in the heart of the nation's capital -- was largely left alone by Homeland Security officials, at least according to the documents included in the FOIA request.
Department officials were copied on National Park Service emails and sent out two advisories regarding Occupy DC events, but kept most of their focus on occupations in other cities. And a U.S. Park Police spokesman said the National Park Service never called on Homeland Security officials for help because they simply weren't needed.
At their core, the Homeland Security documents are just another example of the marked differences between Occupy DC and its counterparts across the country. The District has been host to the movement's longest-standing occupation, but it's also avoided the violent confrontations and large-scale property damage that plagued cities like New York and Oakland during the movement's heyday last fall.
Since D.C.'s occupation began, the National Park Service has handled the protesters in the park with a delicate hand, only cracking down on protesters after a contentious hearing on Capitol Hill in late January. And D.C.'s Occupiers have been known to generally avoid violence and mass arrests, despite a handful of large-scale protests and occasional clashes with police over the past several months.
Occupiers themselves say the District is used to protests like theirs and likely didn't feel the need to call in the big guns when dealing with Occupy.
"If you go to cities that don't have such a large federal presence, you have local departments flipping out and thinking we're all terrorists," said protester James Hill. "So they overreact and get DHS involved."
Hill said the District's Occupiers feel it's unnecessary to engage in confrontational tactics with police because they're more concerned with confronting "the seat of power."
"The fact that we have a physical presence, a physical occupation, says a lot about Occupy and the Park Service," he said. "A lot of us realize that it would be counterproductive to be more confrontational."