Protesters Granted 4-Month Extension to Stay on Freedom Plaza

Authorities granted protesters a four-month extension to continue occupying Freedom Plaza in D.C., News4's Chris Gordon reported.

A deadline for protesters with the October 2011/Stop the Machine demonstration to pack up and leave Freedom Plaza came and went Monday afternoon. The protesters were given until 2 p.m. to break down their stage and other equipment after their original four-day permit expired Sunday. While the protesters cleaned the space and took down the stage where they led rallies, made speeches and played music, they didn't leave.

At about 2 p.m. Monday, Park Police went to Freedom Plaza and requested a private meeting with protest organizers. They met at National Park Service headquarters about 4 p.m., Gordon reported. Before leaving Freedom Plaza, the organizers told the crowd they'd stay until they're ready to leave.

The organizers returned to a round of applause when they told demonstrators that authorities offered the four-month extension, Gordon police. Park Police realized it was not in their best interests to shut the demonstrators down or make arrests, organizers said, and asked if demonstrators needed to be arrested to make their point. The organizers replied that they don’t need to be arrested over a permit issue and want their issues addressed.

Earlier Monday, one of the protest's organizers, Maria Allwine, said the tents would remain there indefinitely.  Demonstrators told News4 on Monday morning that the only way they would exit the plaza was in handcuffs.

"So far we haven't had any threats, so we don't think they are going to come in and storm trooper us out," October 2011 organizer Kevin Zeese said.

They were prepared, though. There is an area where demonstrators piled their backpacks and bedrolls for safekeeping in case of arrest and they wrote the phone number for legal representation on their arms.

Freedom Plaza has drawn a diverse group of disaffected and angry protesters.  The demonstrations in D.C., now 10 days along, are being held in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York.

Organizers said the October 2011 Stop the Machine demonstration was scheduled to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan and carries an anti-war and anti-corporate greed message.

On Monday, labor unions planned to join with those encamped blocks from the White House.

While mostly peaceful, the multi-day "occupation" was punctuated by arrests and pepper-spray on Saturday.  A group of several hundred demonstrators carrying banners attempted to enter the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Museum guards confronted the crowd, a physical altercation ensued, and security deployed mace to turn the protesters back.

One person was arrested in the incident.

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