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CBS News: Cops converge on Occupy D.C. site
February 4, 2012- WASHINGTON - Dozens of U.S. Park Police officers in riot gear and on horseback converged before dawn Saturday on one of the nation's last remaining Occupy sites, with police clearing away tents they said were banned under park rules.
At least seven people were arrested. Officials said it was relatively peaceful but got tense late in the day when an officer was struck in the face with a brick as police pushed protesters out of the last section of the park. The officer was taken to a hospital for treatment.
Protesters held a general assembly Saturday evening and vowed to continue the movement. One of the speakers acknowledged the injured officer and urged everyone to practice nonviolence.
Police insisted they were not evicting the protesters. Those whose tents conformed to regulations were allowed to stay, and protesters can stay 24 hours a day as long as they don't camp there with blankets or other bedding. Police threatened to seize tents that broke the rules and arrest the owners.
The police used barricades to cordon off sections of McPherson Square, a park under federal jurisdiction near the White House, and checked tents for mattresses and sleeping bags and sifted through piles of garbage and other belongings. Some wore yellow biohazard suits to guard against diseases identified at the site in recent weeks. Officials also have raised concerns about a rat infestation.
Police by mid-day had arrested six people, including four protesters who refused to move from beneath a statute and two others for crossing a police line.
The National Park Service, which has tolerated the protesters for months and protected their First Amendment rights, has said it will give protesters notice if police decide to clear the park. Police on Saturday were careful to say they were not evicting the protesters or closing the park, but were instead stepping up enforcement of an existing ban on camping.
Regulations allow protesters to remain onsite at all hours with tents, though they are not allowed to camp out on blankets or other bedding materials. Police said tents that broke the rules would be seized and their owners threatened with arrest.
The park service had said it would start enforcing the ban last Monday, and though protesters had then braced for a confrontation, it wasn't until Saturday that police cracked down.
Some protesters said Saturday's enforcement amounted to eviction even if the police wouldn't admit it.