National Park Service director John Jarvis said the protesters could keep their encampment in place as a 24-hour vigil, but they won't be allowed to sleep, and the Washington Post reported that park police will start arresting those who do. An Occupy D.C. organizer said protesters would resist a crackdown on the encampment "en masse," and thanks to a ruling requiring park officials to give 24 hours' notice before they start enforcing the camping rules, which would allow Occupiers to organize and drum up numbers.
Jarvis told The Atlantic Wire via a spokesman that the protesters would be welcome to keep their presence at McPherson Square, including their tents, but they wouldn't be allowed to sleep there. "Enforcement of the camping regulations does not require that they leave the site. It just requires that they not camp. So we’re going to encourage them to sleep elsewhere," the director said, according to chief N.P.S. spokesman David Barna. The 24-hour notice requirement does apply in this case, he said.
Even if the service plans to hold off from a wholesale crackdown on the vigil, Carrefour said individual sleeping arrests would be enough to provoke a large-scale resistance action. "In terms of resistance I do think if they did start arresting people there’d be a huge influx of people back into the park pretty rapidly to stop that kind of thing," he said.
On the other side, the courts have made it clear that the Park Service doesn't have the authority to stop expressions of free speech on its land, even if they go on for years. Jarvis gave the example of Conception Piccioto (pictured) who's kept a one-person anti-nuclear vigil going for about 30 years, and Vietnam veterans vigils, which have been ongoing at the Lincoln Memorial Plaza since 1958.
"Typically at these vigil sites, the protesters use rotational shifts such that someone is always on site and awake. They cannot abandon the site and keep the vigil going," Jarvis told The Atlantic Wire, via Barna.
But the thing is, even if Occupy D.C. complies with the letter of the law and its participants stop sleeping there, it's going to look pretty much the same: A collection of tents spread out over a public lawn on K Street, surrounded by signs railing against the 1 percent. The tents, kitchen facilities, and portable bathrooms can all stay, Jarvis's office said. And Carrefour said most occupiers spend their days their tents anyway. "Any time you’re there, because it’s so cold, everybody hangs out in their tents."
[Inset photo of Occupy D.C. courtesy of Corey Denis via Flickr]