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Occupy DC McPherson Square camp raided

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12:02 p.m.: ABC7's Mike Conneen reports that there is no activity at Freedom Plaza.

Officers in hazmat gear remove property of Occupy DC protesters Saturday morning at McPherson Square. Photo: Tom Roussey/ ABC7

But he says DC Protective Services officers are guarding the Wilson Building out of a concern protesters might attempt to storm the building as they did in Oakland, California.

ABC7's Tom Roussey says a total of six have been arrested now at McPherson Square, four for disobeying a lawful order and two for crossing a police line.

Park Police are taking down a lot of tents, he says, but not all of them.

10:08 a.m.: ABC7's Tom Roussey says at least three people, possibly four, have been arrested for refusing to leave the base of the statue at the center of the square.

The following roads remain closed: I & K Streets NW (14th to 16th Streets), 15th Street NW (I to L Streets), Vermont Ave NW (K to L Streets), 15th Street NW (H St to Vermont Ave). Also, Vermont Avenue side of McPherson Square Metro.

Occupy DC McPherson Square camp raided

WASHINGTON (AP) - Dozens of U.S. Park Police officers in riot gear and on horseback converged before dawn Saturday on one of the nation's last remaining Occupy sites.

Officers arrived and placed barricades around McPherson Square, a federal park near the White House where demonstrators have camped since October. They were not evicting the protesters.

Police said they're at the park to enforce a National Park Service ban on camping. They were removing wood, metal and other objects from beneath a big blue tarp draped around a statue in the center of the park.

Later, in a lighter moment, Park Police used a cherry-picker to remove a mask of 17th century English revolutionary Guy Fawkes that had been placed on a statue of Union Gen. James McPherson.

After months of tolerating the protesters and protecting their right to sleep in the park, the National Park Service announced last week it would enforce a camping ban. It took effect Monday, although police did not take immediate steps to break up or otherwise disrupt the encampment.

The Washington demonstration is among the last remaining Occupy sites, enjoying special First Amendment protections by virtue of its location on park service property.

The regulations permit protesters to remain onsite at all hours with tents, but bar them from camping or laying down bedding material.

Dozens have been camped since Oct. 1 in McPherson Square, just blocks from the White House. Similar to the New York protesters, who strategically occupied a park near Wall Street to highlight their campaign against economic inequalities, the District of Columbia group selected a space along Washington's K Street, home to some of the nation's most powerful lobbying firms.

Another group of generally older, longtime protesters laid claim to nearby Freedom Plaza five days later for an anti-war rally, then turned their camp into a second Occupy location.

The relationship with police has been generally peaceful, though a daylong standoff in early December over a makeshift wooden building that protesters had erected in McPherson Square in advance of the winter resulted in more than 30 arrests. About five dozen protesters were later arrested during a mass demonstration that shut down K Street.

Democratic Mayor Vincent Gray, who forged his political identity as an advocate for the mentally disabled, initially appeared to support the protesters.

But any enthusiasm by city officials waned amid reports of violent incidents and, more recently, a rat infestation that alarmed the health department.

The encampment caught the attention of Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican who chairs the congressional committee that oversees district affairs. Issa questioned whether the protesters were permitted to remain for political reasons, which park service officials denied.

At a congressional subcommittee hearing last week, director Jonathan Jarvis said the park service would enforce the camping ban soon, but that officials would encourage protesters to sleep elsewhere rather than evict them en masse.

The park service contends protesters are allowed to maintain a 24-hour vigil in the park. Jarvis cited other examples of long-running vigils on park service property in the nation's capital, including a 1979 sit-in by farmers with tractors on the National Mall and an ongoing, 30-year vigil by one person against nuclear proliferation in Lafayette Square across from the White House.

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