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03 December 2023

Occupy 'will never die': protesters in Washington


Protesters with the "Occupy" movement in the US capitol said Friday the authorities' efforts to evict them would fail, after the city mayor called for their removal.

"They are trying to annoy us, to get our spirits down but I really think it's not working," said Sam Mellot from Virginia who has been camping at McPherson Square, a few blocks from the White House, one of two downtown sites being used for an encampment by "Occupy Washington" and "Occupy DC" demonstrators.

"Evict us, we'll multiply -- Occupy will never die," he said.

Washington Mayor Vincent Gray asked the National Park Service on Thursday to remove protesters from McPherson Square, saying he wants the protesters removed to eliminate rats and trash and allow restoration of the park.

He suggested the protesters in McPherson Square could be moved to the other encampment in nearby Freedom Plaza.

The protesters at both sites have been there since October to demonstrate their outrage about economic inequalities.

Some, however, pledged defiance if forced to move by authorities.

"The most serious of these concerns include dangerous rat infestation as well as the serious potential for communicable disease, hypothermia and food borne illness," Gray said in calling for the eviction.

"Occupy DC will not be moving to Freedom Plaza," activist Andrew Breiner, part of the activist group's media wing, vowed to AFP.

"These issues are very minor, and would be an awful reason to shut down an important popular movement," he said.

Robert Dilley, a commercial truck driver from Vernon, New Jersey, also camped in McPherson Square, told AFP late Thursday however, hours after the eviction call was posted, that the group could "go to any other park and essentially do the same thing."

He said the protest and encampment are important "to get our voices heard. This is a movement in its infancy."

Both encampments are on property controlled by the National Park Service.

Other concerns mentioned by Gray include fire threats from candles and propane heaters, inadequate human waste removal and food sanitation.

The city's Health Department director Mohammed Akhter reported the health problems are more severe at McPherson Square than Freedom Plaza, where sanitary procedures are being followed more carefully.

A splinter group Occupy Congress is readying for a demonstration in conjunction with Occupy DC on the National Mall on January 17, the day Congress returns from its winter break.

The Occupy movement took its cue from mass protests against budget cuts and unemployment in Europe and says it is also inspired by democracy revolutions in North Africa.

However, since US cities began evicting permanent protest camps in parks from New York to California, the movement has lost much of its steam.

"We have to continue this because this is an occupation -- we plan on occupying for as long as we can," said Steve Kurylo, 57, who for two months has stayed on slab of concrete at Freedom Plaza.

"This our land, our government, our country, this is not the 600 or so politicians and the problem is we've let them and big business take over control of the government. That's what we want to fight."

According to the website firedoglake.com, 62 Occupy movements are being maintained across the United States, in large American cities including Houston, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.