GOP members badgered National Park Services (NPS) Director Jonathan Jarvis and District of Columbia Officials during a recent hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building concerning Occupy DC/ Occupy K Street's indefinite stay at McPherson Square.
The legislators wanted to know why protesters are allowed to violate NPS anti-camping regulations, with U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-Calif.), hammering down on Jarvis for answers he delivered to the committee.
Jarvis, a 35-year veteran of NPS, testified that the agency will soon begin to enforce anti-camping regulations against Occupy protesters camped out on McPherson Square in downtown D.C. Jarvis has stated this is his first congressional hearing dealing with First Amendment issues. While no evacuation date was provided, he said members of the Occupy group will receive "one more warning" before NPS enforcement begins.
NPS has historically employed a relaxed approach with protesters exercising their First Amendment rights on NPS property in the District, and over the years there have been several protests that pushed the envelope on anti-camping regulations.
In 1979 some 6,000 families drove their tractors to the National Mall where they stayed for seven weeks in protest of American farm policy. But prior to that, following Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.' death in 1968, several thousand people from The Poor People's Campaign built and camped in Resurrection City for a month. Both movements clearly violated anti-camping regulations, but were allowed.
Meanwhile, the GOP refused to back down with their hardline questions as Rep.Joe Walsh, (R-Ill.), repeatedly asked Jarvis if he or the NPS was being influenced by the admnistration not to enforce the statute. "Who's telling you not to enforce the statute," Walsh asked Jarvis during his round of questions.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, (D-DC) and Congressman Elijah Cummin (D-MD) also spoke during the hearing in support of allowing people to express their First Amendment rights and how the Occupy movement shares a comparison with the Civil Rights Movement.