In an October 12 editorial, the Washington Post editorial board opined that "If any should go the extra mile to accommodate free expression, it's Washington, D.C.," and as such, the "End the Machine" and Occupy D.C. protests at Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square respectively should be "given their space."
A month and mile extra miles later, it appears the Occupiers are starting to wear out their welcome with the Post editorial board, which today called essentially for city officials and the U.S. Park Police to devise an exit strategy, make that an eviction strategy, for the Occupiers:
Fortunately, trouble has been more limited so far in Washington, where Occupy D.C. encampments have been set up in McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza. There has been cooperation between officials and protesters. Not only has the National Park Service gone the extra mile to accommodate protesters by looking away from violations of no-camping rules, but some members of the D.C. Council have endorsed the campers’ right to stay. Clearly, the District’s experience as host to the nation’s protests has equipped it to deal with the current situation.
How long that status quo will last, though, is a matter of some concern. Businesses near McPherson Square say they are being adversely impacted, and earlier this month D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier warned about the “increasingly confrontational and violent” character of the protesters. The group at Freedom Plaza has a permit that expires Dec. 30, and we have to wonder what will happen then. Any thought that cold weather would drive protesters away seems unrealistic. It’s worrisome that, as sources have told us, federal officials, who have sole jurisdiction over the plaza and square, and city officials, who are most impacted by the occupations, aren’t really talking about the next step.
“I think we should continue to monitor the situation, and once circumstances become such that health, sanitation or safety become an issue, we are going to have to ask them to leave as overnight guests,” said D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3). Since turning out the lights isn’t an option, it’s important that officials develop ways to deal with what could be an increasingly thorny situation.