WASHINGTON (AP) — Some Occupy D.C. protesters are asking a judge to block the federal government from evicting them and confiscating their tents.
A lawyer for the demonstrators urged a judge Wednesday to bar police from indiscriminately seizing tents or other property belonging to the protesters. The group has camped out at McPherson Square — just blocks from the White House — since early October, and plans to remain there indefinitely and around-the-clock, according to a court filing.
Though there has been no attempt to evict the protesters even as Occupy sites in most other major American cities have been shut down, the D.C. demonstrators are nonetheless concerned about being forced out and not having a chance to recover any belongings that are taken from them, attorney Jeffrey Light wrote in court papers.
An order from a judge last month required the government, except in the event of an emergency, to give the protesters and the court 24-hour notice if it plans to enforce regulations prohibiting camping or sleeping in the square. But Light, who represents two of the demonstrators and who is seeking class-action status for his case, said he also wants the government barred from removing protesters’ property without a legitimate reason — such as in the event of a fire or for the active investigation of a crime.
“That reason needs to be grounded in established procedures. It needs to be reasonable and there needs to be some process for making sure that the decision’s not arbitrary and making sure that people can recover their property if it’s seized,” Light said.
Court papers filed Wednesday accuse the Park Police of having removed and destroyed property from the site without notice and without giving protesters a chance to claim it. In a sworn statement that was also filed, one protester described how an art tent — containing paint, tables and art supplies — had been taken down from the site.
Sgt. David Schlosser, a U.S. Park Police spokesman, said the agency routinely seizes abandoned property. But he declined further comment until his agency’s lawyers have a chance to review the court filing. Bill Line, a National Park Service spokesman, also declined comment.
There have been some tense moments in the last few weeks, including the arrests in early December of 31 protesters who
refused to descend from and disassemble a makeshift wooden structure they had erected in the middle of the night at their encampment site.
Like their counterparts across the country, the D.C. protesters have generally called for an end to corporate excess, income inequality and what they see as the excessive influence of money in politics.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)