It is illegal for people to sleep overnight or camp in Washington D.C.’s McPherson Park. Yet for four months, the National Park Service has allowed Occupy Wall Street protesters to camp there.
Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) interrogated National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis about this.
“There’s a statute I believe that says camping is illegal. Camping in MacPherson Park is against the law. Is that correct?” Walsh asked Jarvis during a subcommittee hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that focused on why the Park Service had not removed the Occupy protesters.
“That is correct,” Jarvis said.
“And in fact, you, I believe the Park Service handed out a document early on in the Occupy D.C. process to the folks at MacPherson Park that … spelled out the definition of camping that you and I both agree is not allowed,” said Walsh.
He asked why the law has not been enforced. Jarvis did a verbal song and dance about First Amendment rights.
“And so as we have approached this, how we are trying to manage this activity and provide our first goal in the National Park Service in allowing and providing for First Amendment activities is the health and safety of the community and the demonstrators themselves, and we felt that going in right away and enforcing the regulations … against camping, could potentially incite a reaction on their part that would result in possible injury or property damage,” Jarvis added.
In short, “We don’t intend to enforce the law. So buzz off, Congressman. You have nothing to say about this.”
The Congressman asked the right question:
“Who’s telling you – and I know this isn’t you – who’s telling you not to enforce the statute? It’s not your job to determine which protest group – how to treat protest groups differently. They’re breaking the law. Why aren’t you enforcing that law? It’s been four months,” Walsh said.
The guy responded with verbal fog.
“Well, all of our decisions related to the way that this particular protest has been handled has been made on the ground, first and foremost by our U.S. Park Police officers and commanders, in terms of what they, I mean, law enforcement. I served as a law enforcement officer. Law enforcement officers are granted a great deal of discretion in terms of how they enforce and what they enforce and when they enforce,” Jarvis said.
In short, “I don’t intend to enforce the law. So buzz off, Congressman. You have nothing to say about this.”
He denied that politics is in any way involved.
The fact that Obama’s State of the Union Address sounded like an Occupy Wall Street speech has nothing to do with the decision not to enforce the law.
It’s different strokes for different folks.
If these were Tea Party protesters, the law would be enforced. Count on it.