In making the charge, Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, threw his weight behind District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray (D), who has also criticized the federal government over the camps.
Gray wrote a letter to the director of the National Park Service dated Jan. 12 that requests the federal agency “take immediate steps” to remedy what he calls a “dangerous situation” in the Occupy DC encampments.
Occupy DC protesters, an outgrowth of the Occupy Wall Street protest movement, have been camped in McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza in Washington since October. Both sites are under federal jurisdiction and the National Park Service has allowed protesters to remain as an expression of their right to free speech.
Gray cites several concerns with the ongoing situation.
“The most serious of these concerns include dangerous rat infestation as well as the serious potential for communicable disease, hypothermia, and food borne illness,” Gray wrote, citing recent inspections by health officials.
He also argues that the city should not be forced to cover costs of the encampment, because “decisions that led to these on-going camp sites were made entirely by the National Park Service.” He notes that the city is still awaiting reimbursement for costs incurred to ensure peaceful protests in the past.
The city is also braced for an upcoming protest scheduled for Jan. 17 on the National Mall. Dubbed “Occupy Congress,” organizers expect thousands to gather.
An hours-long standoff between police and Occupy DC protesters ended Sunday night after officers forcibly removed several people clinging to a wood structure erected earlier in the district’s McPherson Square.
A total of 31 people were arrested over the course of the day, according to U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. David Schlosser.
The standoff started shortly before 11 a.m. as park police surrounded the structure built overnight as a place where protesters could stay warm in the winter and hold their daily general assembly meetings, according to Wade Simmons, one of the Occupy demonstrators.
Police ordered the structure taken down around noon Sunday, a post on the Occupy DC website reported, but some people remained perched on top of or inside the building, which was donated by a father-son architect team. As many as 200 people gathered at the park to watch the standoff.
Schlosser said the protesters had not gone through proper permitting procedures for the structure and “police had safety concerns regarding structural integrity.” A city inspector was brought in to examine the building and deemed it unsafe, posting orange “danger” signs on its shell.
Shortly before 7 p.m., police pulled an armored truck alongside the structure and two officers standing on the vehicle’s roof could be seen negotiating with six remaining protesters — down from a high of 22 earlier in the day.
After several minutes of discussions, two of the protesters voluntarily jumped from the structure onto an inflatable pad brought in by authorities. A third was brought down willingly by an officer in a police cherrypicker. Two others were forcibly pulled into the cherrypicker after two officers tied a safety rope around them.
The last remaining protester was eventually removed in an effort that involved four officers who had to use pepper spray to get him to release his grip on the structure’s beams.
Onlookers chanted “Let him go!” and “The whole world is watching.”
Earlier, police put up barriers around the structure and cordoned off nearby streets with yellow tape as protesters chanted, “This is a nonviolent movement,” and, “Put the pepper spray away.”
Fifteen of the 31 people detained by police were arrested for crossing the police line. The other 15 were charged with disobeying a lawful order after police ordered them to vacate the structure. The last protester removed from the building was charged with resisting arrest, indecent exposure and urinating in public.