Occupy DC protesters arrested after standoff


Police arrested 31 protesters late Sunday at an anti-Wall Street encampment in Washington and tore down the wooden shelter that activists had illegally erected overnight, prompting a nine-hour confrontation.
Officers on foot and horseback converged on McPherson Square, near the White House, where demonstrators have been living since late September, leading several activists to climb on to the structure and refuse to come down.
After making dozens of arrests near the 25-feet tall, roofless hut, US Park Police deployed an armored car and motorised lift to try to remove six hardy demonstrators who had clung on limpet-like to the shelter.
Ladders were then used to ease down the last protester who for more than 30 minutes held off five officers who had tried to attach a rope to his body to lift him off the building.
But he was eventually prised off its beams, and a fork-lift truck later moved in and flattened the structure. A crowd of around 400 people had gathered to watch the unfolding spectacle and many of them shouted “shame on you” at police as arrests were made at the site while also chanting that “liberty and justice would prevail.”
Despite moves to evict “Occupy” protesters from similar camps in New York and other cities, authorities in the US capital have generally refrained from taking action against the village of tents and tarps that has sprung up here. But the erection of a wooden building, against park regulations, prompted officers to swarm into the square, and the standoff ensued.
Sergeant David Schlosser, a park police spokesman, said 31 people were arrested and charged – 15 of them for crossing a police line and 16 for defying police orders. A police officer at the scene said earlier that the people who had climbed on to the structure’s wooden beams were given three warnings that they were subject to arrest. Protesters were split on the merits of building the wooden shelter frame that led to Sunday’s standoff with city authorities.
The anti-Wall Street movement, born in New York in mid-September, is trying to redefine itself, as permission to camp in public spaces is being rapidly curtailed. The loosely organised, left-leaning Occupy Wall Street protesters insist they are exercising their freedom of speech in the run-up to November 2012 national elections.