Police search Freedom Plaza Occupy camp, remove some tents

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Local,DC,Aubrey Whelan
U.S. Park Police continued their sweep of the District's two Occupy encampments with an afternoon inspection of the tents at Freedom Plaza that saw several shelters removed from the square for violating a camping ban there.

The inspection was markedly different from Saturday's often violent encounter at McPherson Square, where police, carrying riot shields and wielding nightsticks, removed nearly all the tents from the park and clashed with protesters as they attempted to move them out of the square.

At Freedom Plaza on Sunday, several dozen protesters calmly watched police go through tents from behind barriers, occasionally chanting and singing. Two pulled up lawn chairs to watch the inspection. There was one arrest in connection with alleged felony threats to a police officer -- but the atmosphere was largely tranquil.

"We didn't want those huge crowds or negative interaction with cops," said Freedom Plaza protester Ann Wilcox. "It's better if police can do the job and get it done as quickly as possible."

The Park Police's camping ban prohibits sleeping in the park and storing bedding in tents. Tents that didn't comply were removed. Police said they also removed tents with materials deemed biohazards.

Freedom Plaza was largely intact, with most tents still standing, when police stopped taking down tents early Sunday evening. Park Police spokesman Sgt. David Schlosser said many in the camp had already voluntarily complied with the ban.

In McPherson Square, a day after the Park Police's enforcement action, shaken Occupiers regrouped to discuss options to move forward. With just under two dozen tents still standing and police barriers still lined up on the muddy south lawn, they agreed to continue a 24-hour vigil at the park's information tent and look at ways to maintain a presence in the city.

Protesters said it was doubtful that anyone would try to sleep in the park now, but Occupy DC is still allowed to keep tents in the park -- as symbols of the occupation -- as long as they're not used as dwelling places. Many are staying with friends, and about 20 slept in a local church last night, protesters said. Some movement members floated ideas about occupying an indoor space and hosting general assembly meetings in local neighborhoods.

Police ultimately made 11 arrests at McPherson Square on Saturday, Schlosser said -- three for assault on a police officer, three for crossing a police line, four for not obeying a lawful order, and one for felony assault on a police officer and assault with a dangerous weapon.

awhelan@washingtonexaminer.com

awhelan@washingtonexaminer.com

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