Violence at the convention center. Getting run over – and into – by cops on horseback. Infestation of rats in the park. Kitchen shut down. Gunfire. Protests in the street. Ankle deep mud on the National Mall. A snowstorm in January. OccupyDC has survived everything that could be thrown at it. And the encampment is still here in McPherson Square at the corner of 15th and K Street in Washington DC.
Now here comes Darrell Issa, (R-CA). Apparently Mr. Issa is “concerned” about the protesters in the park and he wants to know why they’ve been allowed to stay so long. He’s called for a congressional inquiry to search out answers to the question, “Why has the National Park Service (NPS) allowed McPherson Square to be occupied for so long.
Even one of Mr. Issa’s senior members of the committee, Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), has called it a waste of time, money and the authority normally invested in the committee.
Here’s what Mr. Cummings said about the situation:
“Our committee has the power to achieve great benefits investigating waste, fraud and abuse on behalf of the American people,” …but investigating Occupy Wall Street protestors is a poor use of our resources and authority.”
So what’s Issa’s problem with OccupyDC? I don’t think it’s the money, although that’s precisely what Issa is saying concerns him. Apparently NPS spent $400,000.00 on improvements and infrastructure on McPherson Square last summer before the encampment was set up.
At first glance, Issa has the pocketbook of the taxpayer’s at heart, so he fired off a letter to NPS. NPS – in so many words – told Issa to “stick it”.
In a letter from NPS Deputy Director of Operations, Peggy O’Dell to Issa (and dated January 6), it was pointed out to Issa, she stated that OccupyDC is apparently within…“…previous activities that have been judged to be protected by First Amendment free speech and assembly rights.”
In the same letter, she goes on to say, ““The NPS … takes seriously its responsibility to protect the resources that have been entrusted in its care. First Amendment activities, however, often come with a measure of wear and tear on our national parks, not dissimilar to what results from frequent and high-volume use by visitors and tourists to our parks in the National Capital Region and around the country.”
Odell continues in her letter to Issa, “… that of the $400,000 stimulus grant, only $8,000 was used to re-sod the park with new grass. The rest…was spent on “hardscape improvements that have not, to [her ] knowledge, been damaged over the course of the demonstration.”
Wrapping up her letter, Ms. Odell gives Issa the Congressional version of the barroom taunt, “Let’s step outside”. Instead of answering Issa’s lengthy list of questions,Odell told him “ …the Park Service would be happy to brief the committee in more detail.”
I’d be glad to second that, but with one exception. My response? C’mon Mr. Issa, let’s step outside.
Jerry Nelson is a nationally recognized photojournalist and adventure photographer. His work has appeared in many national, regional and local publications including CNN, USAToday, Upsurge, Earthwalkers and Associated Content and he is a regular contributor to Huffington Post as well as OpEdNews. Nelson travels the country seeking out the people, places and things that make America unique and great. Nelson currently is in Washington D.C. pointing his camera at OccupyDC and freelancing for The Washington Times the second largest paper in the nation’s capital.
CLICK HERE to see more of Nelson’s work or to hire him for a shoot.