WASHINGTON -- While relations between the group of assembled protesters in McPherson Square and local police jurisdictions have been relatively peaceful since Occupy DC started its encampment more than three weeks ago, that could change this week.
As The Washington Post reported this weekend, the U.S. Park Service plans to distribute fliers to detailing "health and safety" concerns to the McPherson Square protesters on Monday, who are occupying the federally-controlled downtown park without a permit.
Local and federal jurisdictions, including the D.C. mayor's office, the U.S. Park Police, the Metropolitan Police Department and the D.C. attorney general's office, have been in engaged in "sensitive and delicate" discussions, the Post reports, on how to balance the protesters' First Amendment rights with the need to maintain safe public access to the square.
As The Huffington Post reported on Oct. 14, sanitation issues have been a major concern in the park as the number of protesters increased and since major rain first fell on the encampment, creating muddy conditions. Downtown business owners and groups that represent them have also expressed worries about just how long the protest will continue, citing trash as an issue. Protesters, who have pledged to camp in the square into the winter, have made sanitation improvements to their encampment as their numbers have grown.
As the Washington Examiner reported last week, officials are also concerned about the health of McPherson Square's grass, which was replaced with federal stimulus money earlier this year. New sod replacement could cost $200,000.