WASHINGTON — Demonstrators affiliated with the Occupy movement maintained a wary vigil here Monday as a deadline from the National Park Service for campers to remove their gear or depart from two downtown parks came and went.
"Some individuals will stay, and some will go, but those who decide to stay — which are a lot of people — we have the right to be here," said Michael Patterson, 21, of Anchorage, Alaska.
Despite the noon deadline, there was no immediate effort by police to clamp down on the campers. Many demonstrators removed their camping equipment and unzipped their tents for police to inspect.
The scene stood in marked contrast to a violent confrontation 2,500 miles away over the weekend when 400 Occupy protesters in Oakland, Calif., were arrested after tearing down construction barricades. As of Monday afternoon, about 100 protesters remained in custody, according to the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, and 42 were set to be released by the end of the day. The other 58 protesters are being held on more serious misdemeanor or felony charges.
Oakland protesters and city officials blamed each other for the weekend's violence, which left three officers and at least two protesters injured.
In Washington, the park service had largely taken a hands-off approach to the camps until recently. There is a long-established right for protesters to hold vigils in federal parks, including long-term ones if there is no camping, which the park service defines as using park land for sleeping and storing personal possessions.
But the agency has increasingly come under criticism for allowing legal vigils to turn into permanent campsites that are not permitted under the law. Pressure on the park service has increased as conditions have deteriorated, including a rat infestation and the discovery of an apparently abandoned infant in a tent.