A small group of protesters backed by the Occupy DC movement took over a former school building in Washington for several hours before being removed by police.

An AFP journalist at the scene saw around 100 activists from the nearby Occupy camp who demonstrated outside the Franklin School building, a 19th century structure that had been used as a homeless shelter before it was closed by the municipal government.

The "Free Franklin" group said in a statement it "seeks to demonstrate the act of occupation as a means of redistributing resources to meet community needs."

"The Franklin building is a public building that belongs to the people of DC and must be put to use for the benefit of the community to meet the greatest community need. It is not surplus, and the people of DC will not allow the government to give it away or sell it to private developers to turn it into a boutique hotel," spokeswoman Abigail DeRoberts said.

The occupiers carried a banner calling the building "public property under community control."

After several hours, police brought out about about a dozen occupiers. One protester was arrested outside for blocking police vehicles, according to the Occupy group.

The group had planned to remain in Franklin School indefinitely, and called for a community meeting on Monday for public consultation on potential uses of the downtown property.

The red brick building had been used by Alexander Graham Bell in 1880 for tests on wireless communication.

Occupy DC popped up spontaneously on October 1, nearly a fortnight after Occupy Wall Street began, while its near-namesake grew out of an anti-war protest that started October 6 after several months of preparation.

Unlike their counterparts in New York and elsewhere, however, the movement with two locations in the US capital has largely avoided serious confrontations with the police.

Washington Mayor Vincent Gray has signaled the occupations -- in public space that belongs to the National Park Service -- will be tolerated, so long as they do not threaten public order.

With Occupy activists evicted from camps in New York, Portland, Oakland and Dallas, the group is pondering its next moves.