Eight months after their camping gear first started filling up McPherson Square, members of Occupy D.C. discovered today that the last remaining tents and tarps filling the park had been knocked over during the night.
As members of the income inequality protest movement no longer spend their nights in McPherson Square, there were no witnesses who could fully describe what happened to the tents containing the last vestiges of Occupy D.C.’s collections of books and art. A homeless man, Paul, who says he sleeps in the park, says heard the tents being knocked over but could not see clearly who was taking them down.
But removing the tents was a point of heated discussion at an Occupy D.C. meeting on Sunday night. Convening at Luther Place Memorial Church on Thomas Circle NW, Occupy D.C. and other activist groups discussed a variety of agendas, but it was one occupier who suggested that it was well past time to finally clear the park of its lingering remnants of the encampment.
Standing in a makeshift station constructed from empty milk crates, Austin Dalton, one of Occupy’s live video broadcasters, says that it was Melissa Byrne, a longtime member of Occupy D.C., who broached the topic of cleaning up the park.
“She wanted to take everything down because she said it made the park look bad,” Dalton says.
Reached by phone, Byrne, who these days is more active with the offshoot anti-foreclosure movement Occupy Our Homes, did not refute that she was dissatisfied with the condition that Occupy D.C. left McPherson Square in. “I was pretty upset with how gross it was,” she says.
But Byrne categorically denied that she was part of any effort to knock down any tents or signs, which this afternoon sat in piles of rubble waiting to be hauled away. After the meeting, she said she took a stroll by McPherson—her first in months—and then went home for the evening.
Today, McPherson Square is half-mended from the five months of constant encampment from October to February that turned the park from a verdant patch in the middle of downtown D.C. into a muddy, stripped-down pit after a $400,000 renovation paid for by the 2009 stimulus act. The southern part of the square is now fenced off, thick with grass once again. Occupy D.C. itself uses the park less and less these days, especially since taking office space last month a few blocks away in a building at 16th and L streets NW. Dalton, the videographer, was one of only three members of Occupy D.C. lingering around the square this afternoon, a testament to the level the movement has receded from public view.