OccupyDC dances for Zuccotti

Washington's occupiers have some fun marching in solidarity with New York

Topics: Occupy Wall Street, OccupyDC, ,

OccupyDC dances for Zuccotti Freedom Plaza camp of OccupyDC (Credit: Theqspeaks via Flickr (Creative Commons))

Under the watchful eye of dozens of D.C. police and Secret Service officers, more than 400 boisterous demonstrators from OccupyDC marched through the streets of the nation’s capital Tuesday night in solidarity with the now-dispersed protesters of Occupy Wall Street.

Despite the day’s dismal events in New York, the mood was upbeat. The chanting was positive(‘Occupy Wall Street under attack?/What do we do?/Stand up. Fight back”) So were the protest signs. (“Tax Fairly,” one demanded). And the happy honking of passing taxis confirmed what has been obvious for a month: many of the city’s African and south Asian immigrant cab drivers consider themselves part of the 99 percent.

The protesters first marched on the 9th Street offices of the Brookfield Company, which owns Zuccotti Park. Rushing past a couple of outmanned security guards, the crowd briefly took over the building’s marble and glass atrium lobby. Ricky Lehner, a 23-year Florida native active in OccupyDC, called for the ritual “mike check,” in which the crowd repeats the speaker’s every word. The raspy Lehner quoted the company’s statement on the eviction in New York.

“Brookfield said today: ‘it would have been irresponsible to not request that the city take action. Further, we have a legal obligation to the city and to this neighborhood to keep the park accessible to all who wish to enjoy it, which had become impossible.’”

To the crowd’s approval, Lehner offered his own statement:

“What about your legal obligation to follow the constitution?” he shouted. “How can you say it has become impossible to access the park? Everyone who is peaceful is welcome there.”

“We are here to request a couple of things from you,” Lehner went on.

“To support OccupyWallStreet’s First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly. And to respect those rights and allow the ‘occupiers’ to stay in Zuccotti Park.”

No one from Brookfield was present. Only a couple of irritated security guards actually heard the requests in person. (“This is retarded,” one of them told me.) But the crowd, evidently satisfied that the message would eventually reach the right ears, moved on.

After marching through the Chinatown entertainment district, the protesters’ next stop was 1620 Eye Street, the anonymous modern of the National Conference of Mayors. The doors were locked tight, so a couple of demonstrators held up a hand-drawn U.S. map marked with all the Occupy Wall Street arrests nationwide. (“3,600 hundred total; 230 today”).

A smartly dressed African-American woman named Chi Chi Iwouha stepped forward to read out the names of 18 mayors around the country who have authorized eviction of occupation sites in recent days.

“Shame!” Shame! Shame!” the crowd chanted.

Iwouha, a D.C. native who works as administrative assistant, told me  she had joined OccupyDC  because of “unequally distributed wealth” and an “inhuman criminal justice system.”

The night’s only moment of tension followed when the crowd surrounded two noisy police motorcycles manned by  impassive cops. The circling crowd was not exactly aggressive but it wasn’t entirely friendly either.  One young man, face covered by a bandana, gave the cops the finger while a young woman, obviously sincere, held up a sign saying “We Love You.” After the cops gunned their engines a few times, the marchers let them roar past.

You Might Also Like

From there the crowd shambled to Lafayette Square where they gathered at the fence in front of the White House. With the windows of President Obama’s residence shining brightly in the background, the call of “mike check” brought forth another voice from the leaderless crowd, a cheerful 28 year-old black man in dreadlocks who goes by singular name of Seven.

“Now, with all due respect, Mr. President, do we have your full attention?” he shouted at the White House. Then he  lowered his voice to prove his respect: “Because you have ours.”

With the crowd repeating each phrase of his improvised speech, Seven invited the president to visit the McPherson Square encampment, located just two blocks away.

“Come see us,” he said. “And together we will change the future.”

Afterwords, I asked Seven if he had a message for his neighbor, the president.

“That we love him and we support him,” he said with a smile that combined admiration and disappointment.  ”If he wants to make a better future with us, we are with him.”

From there, the crowd returned to McPherson Square, a grassy park along the city’s K Street office corridor, now half covered with tents. A group of older people gathered in a circle to solemnly sing the old protest song,  ”We shall not be moved.” At the same time, two dozen young people took it upon themselves to start dancing the Electric Slide, the capital’s eternally popular dance move, right smack in the middle of the intersection of 15th and Eye Streets.

It was a fun loving rebuke to those painfully naïve (or deeply cynical) reporters from the conservative Daily Caller website who regularly descend on McPherson Square bravely seeking to expose the dangerous ways of a movement that is said to support secession from the union, assaulting old ladies, “violence and revolution,” and (oh the treachery) ignoring fans of Ron Paul.

“Can you believe the violence of these people?” cried Michael Patterson, a 21 year old Iraq war veteran and OccupyDC mainstay, in mock horror as the dancers did their thing. “They are destroying America. They’re dangerous!”

When the annoyed commuters started leaning on their horns, the ever-patient DC cops told the bugaloo brigade to break it up, and the dancers  complied. Laughing and hugging, they retreated to OccupyDC’s food tent where they lined up for political chit-chat and a free dinner of shrimp and rice.

Nobody seemed too worried about the police busting up McPherson Square like they did Zuccotti Park. Not tonight. Not yet.

Jefferson Morley
Jefferson Morley is a staff writer for Salon in Washington and author of the forthcoming book, Snow-Storm in August: Washington City, Francis Scott Key, and the Forgotten Race Riot of 1835 (Nan Talese/Doubleday).

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>