By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The National Park Service will bar Occupy DC protesters from camping in the two parks where have been living since October, in a blow to one of the highest-profile chapters of the movement denouncing economic inequality.
The Occupy DC protesters must stop camping in McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza, both a few blocks from the White House, starting at about noon on Monday, the Park Service said on Friday.
The Park Service will start to enforce regulations that "prohibit camping and the use of temporary structures for camping in McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza," the agency said in a flyer distributed at the sites.
"Although 24/7 demonstration vigils and the use of symbolic temporary structures, including empty tents used as symbols of the demonstration, may be permitted in the park areas, camping and the use of temporary structures for camping is not."
The protesters have been in the two sites since around the start of October. They have spearheaded numerous protests in Washington, including a demonstration that drew hundreds of people to the Capitol this month.
The McPherson Square site has drawn increasing criticism from Congress and the District of Columbia administration.
The park bordering K Street, a symbol of Washington lobbyists, has been criticized because of squalor and rats, and the protesters' numbers have been swelled by homeless people.
Sara Shaw, a McPherson Square protester handling contacts with the media, said the group would discuss its response at an evening meeting. She said 50 to 100 people were living in the square.
Bob Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, said in a statement: "The National Park Service takes very seriously its tradition of providing opportunities for First Amendment activities.
"We have a long history spanning several decades of 24-hour First Amendment vigils."
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Paul Thomasch)