Judge Puts Brakes on Occupy D.C. Eviction

     (CN) – Authorities must give Occupy D.C. protestors at least 24 hours notice before evicting them from McPherson Square, but the activists cannot get a temporary restraining order against the U.S. Park Service, a federal judge ruled.



     Brett Eugene Henke had claimed he had the right to pitch a tent in the square as “protected freedom of speech, assembly and association” under the First Amendment.
     Henke’s lawyer applauded the finding that the government owes one day’s notice before using rules against sleeping or camping to evict the 100 protesters who have occupied a tent city in McPherson Square since Oct. 1
     “We were very pleased that there are not going to be any surprise evictions and the protestors can get their day in court,” attorney Jeffrey Light told Courthouse News.
     Henke filed suit Monday, one day after U.S. Park Police allegedly “closed off an area of McPherson Square which contained numerous tents, including one belonging to plaintiff.”
     “Until the park police were informed that plaintiff would be seeking a temporary restraining order to reopen the closed off portion of the park, no occupiers were allowed to enter the area to retrieve their personal belongings or to protest in that area,” the federal complaint states.
     A cop told one protestor that police would section off parts of the square, and remove tents and protestors’ belongings, Henke said.
     “Plaintiff objects to not being allowed, during the evening of December 4, 2011, to continue to occupy his tent, expressive conduct protected under the First Amendment,” according to the complaint. “Plaintiff reasonably fears that defendant’s conduct will be repeated in the imminent future because the park police did not desist from their unlawful conduct until they were informed that plaintiff would be seeking a temporary restraining order.”
     Henke also said he should have been allowed to retrieve his personal belongings from the cordoned-off on Dec. 4. “Plaintiff reasonably fears that defendant’s conduct will be repeated in the imminent future because the park police did not desist from their unlawful conduct until they were informed that plaintiff would be seeking a temporary restraining order,” the complaint states.
     There is “no legitimate governmental interest” to close parts of the public square, and Henke “objects to the threatened removal of his tent and personal property.”.
     Short of an emergency, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said authorities should not evict Occupy DC from the area.
     A hearing on the merits of Henke’s lawsuit will take place on Jan. 31.

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