(R-Calif.) is asking the Obama administration to explain why federal authorities haven't cracked down on the Occupy D.C. protesters camped out in a federal park downtown.
In a letter to Interior Secretary
, the chairman of the House oversight committee claimed that the encampment appears to violate a ban on "camping" in the park. Issa also notes that the square was also recently refurbished with $400,000 in new grass, light fixtures and other upgrades, paid for with stimulus money.
"While the merits of this stimulus funding are debatable, we can all agree that once the federal government invested the funds, no government agency should have allowed it to be damaged or destroyed when it legally could have been prevented," Issa wrote.
Protesters set up a tent city in the park on K Street – the corridor of lobbying power in the city – shortly after the
protest caught fire. A cluster of tents and tarps enclose a makeshift kitchen, library, information center, tea house and
center. National Park Service police have largely left the protesters undisturbed, with the exception of a confrontation over a wooden structure protesters tried to erect earlier this month. Police ordered it dismantled and made arrests.
A park service spokesman has said the protest is more akin to a 24-hour vigil, which is allowed under park rules, than camping.
"The National Park Service and U.S. Park Police are firmly committed to upholding Americans' First Amendment rights while also enforcing our nation's laws, guarding public safety, and protecting the resources with which we are entrusted,"
spokesman Adam Fetcher said in a statement Tuesday.
"To that end, the U.S. Park Police have been working closely with the District of Columbia, the Metropolitan Police Department, the D.C. Department of Health and others to ensure that demonstrations associated with the 'Occupy' movement are conducted safely and in compliance with the law. We are reviewing the letter from Chairman Issa and will respond accordingly."
Issa's letter seeks a list of specifics on the issue, including a date when the park service plans to ask the protesters to leave and any communication between the Interior Department, the park service and the