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Park Police haul away last of Occupy DC

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Local,DC,Aubrey Whelan

Under a light rain Tuesday, a handful of National Park Service employees gathered milk crates and tent frames and plucked bedraggled blue tarps from the mud of McPherson Square.

In the end, the once sprawling tent city Occupy DC established eight months earlier fit neatly into two Park Service dump trucks.

With a few remaining protesters watching quietly, the trucks drove off.

As of about 11:30 a.m., McPherson Square was no longer occupied.

The Occupy camp had been nearly abandoned since early February, when Park Police began enforcing a no-sleeping ban. Occupiers themselves had grown sick of the conditions and began clearing out the last of their camp Sunday and Monday. The Park Service arrived Tuesday to finish the job.

"It's definitely good we're done with that park -- it's nothing but bad media," said protester Mark Smith. "For weeks, going down Vermont [Avenue], the only thing I saw is that Porta-Potty. I'm glad we cleaned it up."

The Park Service, which began reseeding the south end of the park several weeks ago, will now begin to repair the damage done by the Occupiers on the north end of the park. McPherson Square had undergone a $400,000 renovation just before the Occupiers moved in.

The Park Service had been under fire from both local officials and Congress because it allowed the Occupiers to remain for so long despite a ban on camping in the park. Occupy DC became one of the longest surviving encampments of the anti-Wall Street movement in large part because federal officials classified the tent city as a 24-hour protest vigil.

Park Service spokeswoman Carol Johnson said the agency now plans to review its handling of Occupy, as it typically does after large protest actions.

"This was a very unusual kind of occurrence," she said. "We're assessing everything that happened and seeing what we did right and what we did wrong and how we can do better."

While Occupiers sort out what is next for the movement, 14 protesters are headed to court Wednesday to face charges stemming from a confrontation with police in December, during which Occupiers erected a barn-like structure in McPherson.

awhelan@washingtonexaminer.com

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