“This is not an eviction,” U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. David Schlosser said Saturday morning at an impromptu press conference held at Occupy DC at McPherson Square as a small army of officers searched the encampment.
Throughout the morning, it remained unclear what exactly was happening, but occupiers sensed something more than a health inspection and removal of camping materials was underway. “It’s an eviction,” Melissa Byrne called out, interrupting Schlosser.
By late afternoon, the mood in the park had gone from relatively calm to tense as teams in hazmat suits hauled tents and other materials into dump trucks. In order to separate occupiers from their belongings, officers would force them out of the park one segment at a time.
While skirmishes took place with each police push, none was more dramatic than the grand finale. Mayhem broke out as officers used their shields and clubs, then horses and possibly taser guns, to complete the eviction, pushing occupiers and press onto K Street.
Multiple injuries were reported, including to Oliver Contreras, Washington Hispanic photographer, who said he was hit on the hand by a police baton which was swung at his head. Occupiers also reported that a 15-year-old girl was struck in the face by a baton.
Police reported that an officer was struck in the face by a brick and taken to the hospital.
It’s unclear if those injured by police Saturday will be able to identify those responsible because, with the exception of higher ups, Park Police officers’ uniforms lacked names and badge numbers.
In addition to large numbers of officers and workers, possibly totaling more than a hundred, the federal government footed the bill for the use of a helicopter and an armada of vehicles, including a military style humvee.
Ironically, one of the reasons Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, used to justify pushing occupiers out of McPherson Square was the cost to taxpayers from the damage done to the park – a number surely lower than the tab for Saturday’s extravaganza.
D.C. police, who for the most part have worked collaboratively with occupiers, largely stayed away from the crackdown, limiting their role to closing down surrounding streets. In addition to placing a large number of officers in the vicinity of McPherson Square, D.C. police had a sizable presence in front of City Hall, possibly fearing it would be taken over like in Oakland, as well as outside Franklin Shelter, which was briefly occupied in November.
A day after the raid, approximately thirty tents remained standing and McPherson Square was once again open to the public, with several Park Police officers on horseback watching on to ensure that the no camping regulation was enforced.
The small army of U.S. Park Police officers and their military-style equipment which descended on McPherson Square Saturday, spent Sunday at Freedom Plaza, the site of D.C.’s other occupation. The mood at Freedom Plaza wasn’t as tense and it appeared that fewer tents were being removed.