Growing Backlash Against Protester Encampments

BOT president wants encampments shut down

An area business leader wants the protester encampments shut down as backlash against the demonstrators grows.

For several weeks, protesters challenging economic disparity and other issues, have set up a mostly peaceful camp at McPherson Square.

But they clashed with D.C. police Wednesday, blocking traffic as they marched downtown. Police arrested 62 people.

U.S. Park Police arrested demonstrators Sunday after construction of an illegal housing frame in the square.

Now some business leaders are urging city and federal officials to shut down the two main campsites for health, safety and commerce reasons.

“There’s not a city in the country except for the Washington, D.C., area that has accommodated these protesters to this extent,” Board of Trade President Jim Dinegar said Friday on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Politics Hour. “We’re a flashpoint away from real trouble.”

“McPherson Square will be a toxic waste dump for the next couple of years to clean that park up,” he added.

Mayor Vincent Gray, who so far has supported protester First Amendment rights, told News4 on the Viewpoint program that airs Sunday morning that people are losing patience with the protests.

“People who are increasingly losing their patience because of the infringement on business as they see it is a very delicate balance,” he said. “We’re walking a fine line. We support their right, of course, to exercise their First Amendment rights, but at the same time, we will not tolerate the breaking of the law.”

While few if any businesses want to publicly complain -- and some say the protesters aren't hurting business -- protesters themselves say it’s democracy in action. In a tent where three people have begun a hunger strike to support voting rights for D.C., one local protester defended the encampment after business criticism.

“We're fighting for them in part and we’re fighting for 99 percent of Americans, and if they have a problem with us, I’d invite them to come have a dialogue with us and see how we can treat them better and see how we can be more constructive together,” Sam Jewel said.

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