City Desk

House Oversight Committee, Occupied

Darrell Issa Investigating Occupy D.C.The House Oversight Committee's D.C. subcommittee held a hearing today on the legality of Occupy D.C.'s presence in McPherson Square. Let's set aside, for a moment, the absurdity of spending significant time on a protest that isn't impacting the lives of most D.C. residents in any measurable way—despite the assertion that Occupy has brought the city to its "breaking point"—and not say, high levels of black unemployment.

The hearing featured a pretty predictable set of questioning, falling along partisan lines, with GOP Reps. Darrell Issa, of California, and Joe Walsh, of Illinois, asking the National Park Service to define "camping" and insisting that the department has been derelict in its duty by letting the Occupiers remain. (Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier, deputy mayor for public safety Paul Quander, and D.C. Department of Health director Mohammed Akhter also testified, though the District doesn't have jurisdiction over the park.)

Though Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis said the group is holding a 24-hour vigil—not camping—committee chair Trey Gowdy of South Carolina defined "camping" as "sleeping or preparing to sleep." He asked Jarvis, "Is there sleeping going on in McPherson Square?" (The answer was yes, obviously.)

If one thing is clear, it's that politics have something to do with the interest from Issa and his Republican colleagues in Occupy D.C. It's difficult to believe that they'd be quite so concerned if Tea Partiers or even this week's March For Life protesters claimed they were setting up a 24-hour vigil.

Meanwhile, Democrats Elijah Cummings of Maryland and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton lobbed softballs at the Park Service and drew analogies to the evolution of protest action from the civil rights movement. The Park Service largely stepped around the question of why they allowed the Occupiers to stay, chalking it up to "discretion." And at the conclusion of the hearing, Gowdy made one demand of the Park Service: "Enforce the regulation or change it."

Legally, of course, the Republicans are well within their rights to ask that Occupy get the boot (and sooner or later, they likely will). The regulations aren't being followed. But all the same, it's hard to muster up much sympathy for the Republicans on the committee, who spent time bashing one hundred or so people—none of whom were called to testify—in the name of concern for the wellbeing of the city. D.C. has its fair share of problems, maybe even more; Occupy D.C. isn't one.

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  • Typical DC BS

    Sorry, agree with the Republicans about this. If it was the Tea Partiers, do you think they'd be allowed to set up camp for four months in a DC park downtown and have the Park Service look the other way? I doubt it.

    Do the homeless have the same rights as the Occupy protesters? Doesn't look like it, since they were regularly rousted from sleeping in the parks before the Park Service decided they weren't going to enforce the rules anymore.

    Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. Cummings platitudes were ridiculous.

    Long past time for the Occupy folks to get the the heave ho. Let them show up every day and protest, just like every other American, then go the fuck home and come back the next day.

  • Jes sayin’

    If they were a bunch of Birthers or White Supremicist Militia Nuts, you better believe they'd have been kicked out by now. And for good reason.

    And if they were folks camping out in the summer so they didn't have to pay for hotels, they'd be gone, too.

    Sleeping is not a form of political speech.

    Rules have to apply to everyone, and it is time for these folks to go home and occupy their parents' basements, or wherever.

  • tired

    You guys are something else the occupiers are there to prove a point and all you can do is criticize. Let you lose your job have your home foreclosed on and have debit from college, and see how you do. Issa is and arrogant jerk , period end of story.

  • DCB

    There's no particular reason at this point to assume a Tea Party protest occupation would be treated differently by the Park Service.

    "Do the homeless have the same rights as the Occupy protesters? Doesn't look like it, since they were regularly rousted from sleeping in the parks before the Park Service decided they weren't going to enforce the rules anymore."

    Judging by the number of homeless I've seen sleeping in McPherson and Franklin every day since I moved to the area several years ago I'm not sure this particular argument holds much water.

  • Quit yer whinin’!

    @ Tired: Did anyone force these people to take on so much debt for their education?!? Could they have gone to a less expensive school? Could they have gotten a job or two to pay their way through school like I did? Why should the rest of the people who "paid" their own way (in some form or fashion -- which includes even forgoing an education) now have to pay for these deadbeats? Additionally, if they didn't major in "Some-kind-of-feel-good-crap Studies" maybe they'd be able to get a decent job and pay off their own debts and be responsible adults. Oh wait, that would make them Republicans and they would never be like them!

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