Well, it was phrased a tad more diplomatically, but that’s the essence of it:
National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis on Tuesday defended his agency’s decision to delay eviction of Occupy D.C. protesters from their four-month-old tent city at Washington’s McPherson Square and denied charges by some Republicans that the Obama administration had ordered a lax police response to the situation.
Jarvis, mentioning his 35 years with the Park Service, did not provide any documents, but testified that “the courts have afforded us discretion” because the Park Police have the “greatest experience” in the complexities of enforcement of protest rights in the nation’s capital.
“Some of these protest events have changed the nation,” he said, listing examples that included the 1963 civil rights march, marches by Right to Life groups and Promise Keepers, the World Bank protests, farmers who brought tractors for seven weeks, and Vietnam War veterans who since the mid-1980s have been maintaining a vigil on the mall. The impacted businesses must be tolerant because “these protests must be allowed to continue,” he said.
Jarvis said the Park Service has been working with District of Columbia officials, three of whom also spoke at the hearing about the Occupy movement’s health and safety risks to the public and to the protesters themselves.
Ranking subcommittee member Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., read from a statement by Occupy protestors that Issa permitted to be placed in the hearing record. Davis praised the Park Service’s “measured” response, saying enforcement decisions can be based on time, place and manner but not on “content,” and they “can’t be broader than needed to protect government’s interest.”
He noted that more than 600 activities took place in Washington in fiscal 2011 and that the District of Columbia government gets federal reimbursement for its enforcement expenses. The government’s tactics “should not include evicting these patriots from their tents.”