WASHINGTON — Dozens of U.S. Park Police officers in riot gear and on horseback converged before dawn Saturday on one of the nation's last remaining Occupy sites, with police clearing away tents they said were banned under park rules.
At least seven people were arrested in the move, which left large swaths of open space at the encampment and raised questions about exactly what would remain.
Police said they were not evicting the protesters. Those whose tents conformed to regulations were allowed to stay, and protesters can stay 24 hours a day as long as they don't camp there with blankets or other bedding. Police threatened to seize tents that broke the rules and arrest the owners.
The police used barricades to cordon off sections of McPherson Square, a park under federal jurisdiction near the White House, and checked tents for mattresses and sleeping bags and sifted through piles of garbage and other belongings. Some wore yellow biohazard suits to guard against diseases identified at the site in recent weeks. Officials also have raised concerns about a rat infestation.
By Saturday afternoon, seven were arrested, including four who refused to move from beneath a statue and three who crossed a police line.
The National Park Service, which has allowed the protesters to remain in the park for months, has said it will give protesters notice if police decide to clear the park.