You are hereWashington Post: Issa challenges Occupy D.C.’s claim to McPherson Square

Washington Post: Issa challenges Occupy D.C.’s claim to McPherson Square

-By Tim Craig

December 13, 2011- Amid rising tension between Occupy D.C. protesters and some congressional leaders, a House committee is investigating why the National Park Service has allowed demonstrators to remain camped in McPherson Square.

The probe by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee represents a new turn in the debate locally and nationally about whether Occupy Wall Street protesters should be allowed to stake claim to public property as part of their demonstrations against what they say are economic and political inequalities.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the committee, sparked the investigation with a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar this week, accusing Occupy D.C. of damaging McPherson Square after $400,000 in taxpayer funds were spent in recent years to improve it. He also questioned whether the Park Service has disregarded its own rules by making exceptions for the 10-week-old protest.

Citing a federal law that appears to prohibit camping in the square, Issa demanded that Salazar turn over by Jan. 3 “all communication” among Park Service officials, the White House and Occupy D.C. protesters. Issa also wants a “written explanation” on why the Park Service allowed demonstrators to “camp in McPherson Square” and a complete accounting of all arrests related to Occupy D.C.

“While the protesters’ continued occupation of the park appears to violate the law, the NPS has not taken any action to enforce the relevant statute,” Issa wrote. “This situation raises questions about why those decisions were made, who participated in making them, and whether political judgments played a role in not enforcing the law.”

Interior officials did not directly address Issa’s letter and gave no indication Tuesday that they would shift their stance toward the protesters.