There are two Occupy camps in DC, one at Freedom Plaza and one at McPherson Square (funny enough, the two groups don't get along very well). The McPherson square camp is seen as the more professional of the two, and they are the more politically active of them.
As you might have seen on the news the last week or so the DC Police have talked about getting serious about enforcing the park rules regarding camping and sleeping. Well, this morning the rubber hit the road and the police raided the camp. The situation is on going right now, whether the park will be cleared out is yet to be seen.
I was there to watch.
I live with a few buddies, and a mutual friend of ours who works for a Fed LE Agency gave us an unexpected text yesterday, "call me now". My roommate did and he filled us in: the DC police was bringing in 200 police officers from New York, they planned on raiding the Occupy camp the next morning. He was planning on going down to watch, and asked if we wanted to come. Absolutely.
We headed into downtown DC early this morning. Passing the White House area we say a large number of vehicles, police, and horses being staged out of there. We found a place to park, noticing that there was a conspicuously large number of police cars parked on side streets. Walking up to the square we kept on the opposite side of the street, wanting to see the action but not get caught in anything. A guy came across the street to talk to us, he didn't seem to be an occupier but rather was the usual street type. He asked us if we were staying for the raid, saying that police had been seen gathering in a few other areas, and people were expecting something to happen.
From the park a number of people started shouting "wake up", realizing perhaps that the raid was imminent. From the distance the sound of a helicopter came, echoing down the near empty city streets, getting closer. Suddenly from the direction of the White House staging area a large number of police lights came on. Roaring down the road six motorcycle cops raced to the square, three peeling off to head to a far corner and three headed to the other end. As the passed shouts from the park erupted, calls of "their coming", "wake up", and "stand your ground."
Following the motorcycles came a huge motorcade of vehicles. Cop cars, trucks, and a dozen white panel vans. From the other end of the park, more lights and vehicles appeared, sealing the streets from traffic. The vans opened up and out came the riot police, putting on their helmets and adjusting their shields while several dozen mounted officers appeared from down the road. Flanked by the riot police, the mounted officers entered the park, securing the sidewalks and central area.
As this was going on a bunch of homeless people made a break from the park. I suspect they were there for the food and shelter, not the politics. Once things got real, they weren't sticking around. The police were (somewhat) keeping more people from entering the park, but anyone trying to leave was allowed to walk away without trouble. About this time a motorcycle cop who was at the corner told us to put away our cameras. We did, then just walked about forty yards down the sidewalk parallel to the park and kept doing it from there. No one said anything more about it.
A few occupiers were shouting at us and other people watching, and from the camp there were a few "people's mic" things going on. In the middle of the park is a statue atop a large pedestal, around which a large tent had been constructed. Three or four protestors climbed atop it, refusing to come down, while the helicopters continued to circle the square with lights shining. A number of city sanitation workers showed up, setting up metal crowd control barricades around the park and down the sidewalks inside it, effectively sectioning off the various tent areas from each other.
We walked around the park some as the news began to show up. All in all, it was pretty peaceful. The police were definitely loaded for bear and ready for things to go down badly, but it seemed to be pretty calm. There seemed to be substantially more police than occupiers, and the sudden presence combining with overwhelming force probably helped suppress anything crazy from kicking off. Police presence was in the hundreds, my guess at least two or three (it was hard to tell in the dark). I saw at least three dozen marked police cars manning a two block radius traffic break, and that's not counting the dozens of vans, police trucks, etc. Saw a few Feds as well, there was at least one hummer there and a truck with some BAFTE guys in tac gear.
As the sun started coming up things seemed to have settled into a muted acceptance of the inevitable. Tents were slowly coming down, and the people on the statue seemed to be holding out (as cherry pickers were being brought in) to try and secure concessions from the police regarding the searching of tents and such. We decided to take off, the action seemed like it was done.
Very interesting to watch! A few pictures (sorry, night time on a cell phone):
The first wave of the vans. Behind them was more, as well as a couple police buses.
Sanitation workers erecting barricades.
A few of the perimeter police. Groups of four or five cops were patrolling on foot around the park while the larger group was inside.
The North East corner of the park. The main roadblocks were a block away but they set up a secondary line immediately surrounding the park.
Hard to see, but there are people on the stature, foot and horse cops on the ground.
Sun rises over the Capitol building.