California Congressional Representative Darrell Issa, the fiery chairman of the House Governmental Oversight Committee, wants to know why the Obama administration is allowing Occupy Wall Street protesters to destroy $400,000 worth of landscaping and refurbishment by putting their encampment in a D.C. park.
Issa is interested in knowing why Interior Secretary Ken Salazar supported the decisions of the National Park Service to not evict the protesters who had built a tent city despite the park service’s rules barring any type of camping in the park. According to Fox News, Issa said “NPS’ laxity toward enforcing its own rules has resulted in protesters killing “newly planted grass that had been funded by the stimulus” and “wasting much of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money used to rehabilitate McPherson Square.”. “While the merits of this stimulus funding are debatable, we can all agree that once the federal government invested the funds, no government agency should have allowed it to be damaged or destroyed when it legally could have been prevented,”.
The national park service had issued a statement shortly after Issa’s inquiry stating “The National Park Service and U.S. Park Police are firmly committed to upholding Americans’ First Amendment rights while also enforcing our nation’s laws, guarding public safety, and protecting the resources with which we are entrusted,” which he also said to Fox News
Issa used the Obama administrations own stimulus tracking resource, Recovery.gov, in order to find out just how much had went into the park and therefore how much was being destroyed by the protestors. According to Recovery.gov, $424,600 was awarded to a local firm to rehabilitate the park, installing new grass, putting in concrete curbs, installing refurbished benches, light poles, water fountains, paint, chain fencing, trash cans and light meters.
Issa said much of the newly built park was “damaged or destroyed”. He blamed the Park Service for allowing what he deemed “illegal camping” using great detail about NPS’ definition of camping. He claims that NPS violating its own rules and definitions by declaring that the protest was a vigil instead of an encampment.
The DC police had tried to evict the protestors on two previous occasions but were stopped when a district judge ruled that the Park Service must issue a vacate order 24 hours in advance, which until know they have refused to do.
Should the Occupy Wall Street Crowd be permitted to camp out in the DC park?