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Early this morning, the Park Police rolled into McPherson Square, set up barricades, took down the Tent of Dreams, distributed blue flyers describing what they were going to do, and after giving Occupiers about an hour to remove stuff from their tents, started methodically going through the park in yellow jumpsuits to bag and tag what hadn’t been taken. Some headlines call it a raid, but the overall impression is more like a toxic waste dump cleanup, with months of detritus being cleared away.
“All persons not in compliance will be subject to arrest, and property will be collected as evidence,” the notice reads. “Any temporary structure used for camping is subject to seizure as an abatement of a public nuisance.”
The public nuisance language bears out hints dropped by the Department of the Interior at Tuesday’s court hearing: Stuff could actually be taken out for sanitary reasons, even if it wasn’t technically violating the no-camping regulations. By the time they’re done, some of the tents might be left, but with nothing that made them habitable.
By giving the protesters a week’s warning, and saying that the tents can remain as a symbolic protest, the cops have avoided the kind of moral outrage and vivid imagery that accompanied evictions in New York, Oakland, Miami. According to Occupy D.C. attorney Ann Wilcox, compliant tents will be allowed to remain indefinitely, as long as people are around to continue the demonstration. “The community presence sort of keeps it all going,” she told me at around 8:00 a.m. “This is not going to be like Miami or L.A., where they say, ‘you’ve got to go.'”
But as more and more tents go down, it looks like very little of the village Occupy D.C. started out as will remain, which protesters hadn’t anticipated. And without the residential component, the self-governing community element of the protest—-the one I found most creative and intriguing—-totally dissolves, no matter how long the more conventional teach-ins and marches continue to take place. At the moment, some are going to Freedom Plaza, which is permitted through the end of February. But what do you think’s going to happen then?
Even if this gets litigated in court post facto, I’m going to bet the Park Service has covered its legal butt—-and if the fight is about whether tents were properly removed or not, most people who still cared will lose interest.
Time for Occupy D.C. to figure out what’s next.
Keep tabs on the livestream here.