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2012-01-30

National Park Service Threatens to Evict Occupy D.C. Encampments at Two Parks Near White House

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The National Park Service says it will begin enforcing a ban today on Occupy protesters camping overnight in McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza, two parks near the White House where they have been living since October. Members of the Occupy encampment say they will resist eviction. "We are going to do our best to make sure that they’re protected from what is effectively a criminalization of poverty and a criminalization of homelessness. By choosing to evict the people who have no place else to sleep, they’re effectively criminalizing those among us who are disenfranchised," says Justin Jacoby Smith, a member of the Occupy D.C. media team, who joins us live from McPherson Square. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: There is also news that the Occupy protests in Washington, D.C., are about to be raided. The National Park Service has said it will begin enforcing a ban today on Occupy protesters camping overnight in McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza, two parks near the White House where people have been living since October. We’re joined on the phone, as well, from McPherson Square by Justin Jacoby Smith, a member of the Occupy D.C. media team.

Justin, what’s happening right now?

JUSTIN JACOBY SMITH: Hi, Amy.

Well, at the moment, we are very slowly moving a number of our tents and other items into the center of the park. And the reason we’re doing that is to make sure that the people that are at the center of our movement, the people that have been disenfranchised by the 1 percent and their greed and their purges of our democracy—we are going to do our best to make sure that they’re protected from what is effectively a criminalization of poverty and a criminalization of homelessness. By choosing to evict the people who have no place else to sleep, they’re effectively criminalizing those among us who are disenfranchised. And that’s something that we’ll stand against.

AMY GOODMAN: Occupy D.C. has been one of the few places that’s in two separate squares, that have not been raided by the police, have not been ended. What has been your strategy, and what exactly will be your strategy now?

JUSTIN JACOBY SMITH: Well, we have had the benefit thus far of being on federal parkland, which means that rather than having to deal with the particular Metropolitan Police Department, we are under the jurisdiction of the federal Park Police, who essentially understand that our First Amendment rights, generally speaking, trump the demands of someone like Darrell Issa, who really works hard to—who has worked hard to politicize our ongoing encampment in a way that reflects well on him, of course, the richest member of Congress, as opposed to the fact that we’re out here struggling against exactly everything that he represents. And so, thankfully, on federal parkland, we have the benefit of having a cooperative and understanding and First Amendment-supporting police force, for the most part, despite occasional stubbles and occasional moments of struggle.

AMY GOODMAN: Justin Jacoby Smith, I want to thank you very much for being with us, member of the Occupy D.C. media team. And I also want to thank Maria Lewis, participant in Occupy Oakland, an undergraduate at University of California, Berkeley. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Of course, we’ll continue to follow the Occupy movement in Berkeley and Oakland, in D.C. and all over the country. But when we come back, we’re going to Syria. Stay with us.

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