Occupy D.C., Let Us Have Our Park Back

This has been cross-posted at www.nickbarron.co.

On Monday, Occupy D.C. will be told by the National Park Service (NPS) to vacate McPherson Square, where the movement has been camped since October.

I request that Occupy D.C. honor NPS’ wishes out of respect for the residents and businesses who have demonstrated a flexible attitude of empathy and support toward Occupy D.C.’s nearly four-month long occupation of the square, and because Occupy D.C.’s point on income inequality has successfully been made.Occupy DC

In early fall 2011, McPherson Square sparkled, just having had the wrapping taken off after an estimated $437,000 renovation that brought new grass, sidewalks, lights, trash cans and more.

Then Occupy D.C. arrived in October, and today you’d be hard pressed to find a single remaining blade of grass. We won’t know until McPherson Square is vacated if other damage has been done to the park, but it’s not outlandish to imagine additional negative impacts to the park because of its having been occupied. It’s estimated that replacing the grass alone could cost $200,000 to replace.

It’s also not a guarantee the grass gets replaced. As many D.C. residents understand, getting the federal government to spend money inside the District on improving things like parks can be a challenge. Our circles and squares don’t exactly benefit from an overabundance of federal funding.

But many residents and businesses, even those in close proximity to McPherson Square, supported, or at least did not oppose, Occupy D.C. setting up in the park initially. There was a general understanding of what the Occupiers were doing, an appreciation that they were doing something.

If sacrificing our small park, which many of us honestly didn’t use as often as we probably should have, brought awareness to the haves and have-nots issue facing our nation, then it would be a worthy sacrifice to make.

I myself never quite understood how the action taken (occupying a public park) would make a difference on income inequality, but I can’t argue with their success. While I do not condone Occupy D.C.’s tactics, I do condone their cause. And I believe many of us in ANC 2F, businesses and residents, felt that way.

And what an impact Occupy D.C. has had, with President Barack Obama calling income inequality “the defining issue of our time” in this week’s State of the Union address, and income inequality being the greatest source of tension in the United States. People, including the President of the United States, is talking about an issue barely on our radar this time last year. For that, you have to overwhelmingly credit the Occupy movement.

I’ve been proud of how D.C. and NPS has handled these months of being occupied. We’ve been patient, understanding and, in many cases, standing in solidarity with their cause. And I’ve been proud of how the leaders of Occupy D.C. have handled themselves and their protest action. I may not agree with them on everything, including tactics, but I find little fault in how they have conducted themselves as they’ve attempted to minimize the negative impacts of their actions on the local community.

But it’s a cause that now needs to move onto its next phase, a phase which does not involve occupying public space in ANC 2F.

I don’t know where Occupy D.C. goes next, both physically and philosophically, but that’s not my job. What is my job is to represent my community in the best way I know how, and today that means thanking Occupy D.C., and respectfully asking them to vacate McPherson Square peaceably on, or before, Monday morning.

Let us have our park back, and please don’t tarnish, by refusing to leave and inciting arrest, what really has, all in all, been a positive experience sharing our community with you these past few months.

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5 comments to Occupy D.C., Let Us Have Our Park Back

  • Occupy D.C.: Please Vacate McPherson Square | Nick Barron

    […] This has been cross-posted at http://www.anc2f.org. […]

  • Just me

    I believe there will still be an occupation of public space in ANC 2F at Freedom Plaza.

  • I actually feel the reverse: I do not necessarily agree with many of their intentions, but I do agree with their tactics. McPherson wasn’t exactly the most used of parks — personally I think it’s great to see something happening with it; especially when they still reach out to and include its homeless population.

    -Bossi, 2F06

  • Nick, You hit the nail on the head when you said:

    “It’s also not a guarantee the grass gets replaced. As many D.C. residents understand, getting the federal government to spend money inside the District on improving things like parks can be a challenge. Our circles and squares don’t exactly benefit from an overabundance of federal funding.”

    During the renovation/restoration of Logan Circle Park, early in my first term on the ANC, we had to fight ridiculously and senselessly hard to get NPS to agree to put a single arm on the park benches, to discourage sleeping on them.

    http://oldcity.biz/shawdc/artman/publish/article_589.shtml

    Of course, there were other bureaucratic entities that made it even more difficult, such as the NCPC. There were claims that it was some major diversion from what was the standard aesthetic in the other parks, which was not true. There were at least one or two other parks with such benches, if I recall.

    I shudder to think of the worst-case scenario, and whether McPherson Square will be right back to the squalid conditions of just a few years ago. (It makes no difference how much the public “used” this park in recent years. A lot of money was spent to refurbish it, and at least it was no longer a blight on the community.)

    In such a case, I think we should mount a vigorous and noisy campaign to get NPS to pay for any and all repairs, as they let this situation drag on this long.

    –Matt

  • Just wanted to append my previous comment a bit-

    I’m not a particular supporter of many of their goals and believe that the confrontational tactics many of the encampments (including our McPherson group) are pursuing are becoming counterproductive to their cause, but at its core I believe that their presence is at the very essence of our rights.

    Especially given my passion for photography: I love a beautiful aesthetic; but I disagree with those who appear to argue that lush green grass is more important than our freedom to assemble. I view their presence as simultaneously activating what was once a highly underused public space whilst also demonstrating the very essence of what it is to be a democracy — even if I disagree with what it is they have to say.