WASHINGTON – Federal authorities moved into an Occupy D.C. site before dawn Saturday, clearing out a number of tents and arresting eight people but stopping short of putting an end to the 4-month-old protest.
The most serious charges – felony assault on a police officer and assault with a deadly weapon – were filed against a protester accused of throwing a brick at an officer’s face, said Sgt. David Schlosser of the U.S. Park Police.
Four protesters were arrested for disobeying a lawful order and three for crossing a police line, Schlosser said.
Police showed up at the McPherson Square site on horseback and in riot gear to enforce a ban on camping in the park. “This is not an eviction,” Schlosser told reporters at the square.
Rather, the raid appeared to launch a containment strategy by the police.
By midafternoon, the tents had been squeezed into the north half of the park, and workers were removing debris from the cleared area, which was sealed off by dozens of police, some on horseback. The smaller area for the tents was encircled by steel barricades, though gaps were left for access.
Dozens of officers were stationed along the new “border” within the square, and although they were technically in riot gear, it was more the business casual version – a smart, dark blue uniform under a shiny light blue helmet with face shield up.
The protesters can maintain a 24-hour vigil in McPherson Square and another Occupy D.C. site at nearby Freedom Plaza, but they cannot sleep there, according to the National Park Service, which has come under pressure from congressional Republicans to enforce the sleeping ban. Tents can remain as symbols of the protest.