In the wee hours of Sunday morning, participants at Occupy DC began building a prefabricated wooden structure in the Occupy Wall Street encampment at McPherson Square
The ‘People’s Pavilion’ was designed by professional architects and engineers to provide shelter, warmth and space for Occupy DC General Assemblies during the winter months.
Almost 12 hours after Occupiers began assembling the structure, Federal Park Police arrived at McPherson Square to order that the structure be disassembled. The police communicated that all who remained inside the structure would risk arrest.
After an emergency General Assembly, a police line was erected to encircle the structure, according to the Occupy DC website. Anyone who stepped between the structure and the caution tape was subject to aggressive arrest. As of 3pm 12 people had been arrested for crossing the police line, including three inside the structure.
According to U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. David Schlosser, the protesters had not gone through proper permitting procedures for the structure and “police had safety concerns regarding structural integrity.” A city inspector was brought in to examine the building and deemed it unsafe, posting orange “danger” signs on its shell.
But members of Occupy DC insist that the modular structure was designed by professionals ‘to code’.
It meets all health and safety requirements and is fully accessible, states the Occupy DC website. It is non-permanent, has no foundations and is not tethered to the ground. It’s designed to be movable every four days to protect the grass beneath the structure. The structure is fully sustainable–it is built to be entirely passively solar-heated and will feature a hydroponic irrigation system on the roof.
By 7 pm 15 of the 31 people detained by police were arrested for crossing the police line. The other 15 were charged with disobeying a lawful order after police ordered them to vacate the structure.
The NY times reports that “despite some disputes and a few confrontations, the Occupy D.C. protesters have had a relatively smooth relationship with the police, without the clashes that have occurred in other cities when officers have moved in to carry out mass evictions.”
At a time when thousands of native District homeless struggle to survive in extreme weather conditions, Occupy DC feels that the structure makes a positive statement for equal housing opportunity and sustainable living.
“In a culture and city with chronic homelessness and foreclosures, this structure is a symbol of what people working together under principles of mutual aid can accomplish with limited time and resources,” said Occupy DC member Robert Stephens. “The police response demonstrates that our system is not committed to building up–they’re only concerned with tearing down.”
Image Credit: Flickr – Daquella Manera