Having a brunch date with some friends down in DC on Sunday, I decided to utilize the day and check out the Occupy scene in McPherson Square that afternoon. My walk from brunch at Founding Farmers happen to go by the White House. Walking up, the crowds in front of the Presidents domain were normal, but the signs and orange vests were not. My friends and I were stumbling upon a rally protesting the Alaskan Oil Pipeline. Saying goodbye to my friends, I decide to delay my visit to the Occupy village and watch the action around me.
The rally ends and the crowd surrounding the stage in Lafayette Square makes there way to the street in front of the White House. They form a huge line, everyone holding various signs. There’s activity all around. It feels good just to be here…watching. I’m in full on observer mode with camera in hand joining the amateur paparazzi about. Everyone is snapping photos all around. For once I feel no shame for following a crowd.
It’s time to make my way to the Occupy scene. I first notice the McPherson Square statue has been written on with chalk messages all over it. I feel a bit shocked as I remember almost being arrested in highschool for “defacing federal property” as the officer had put it. I had written the name of my school on Jefferson’s Rock at Harpers Ferry during a field trip there. At the time, had no idea I was committing a “federal offense.” I wonder if they know this.
As I get closer, I notice 3 of the occupiers are cleaning off the chalk messages and a group of other occupiers (assuming the ones who “defaced” it) were not happy. They begin to argue as the “cleaners” lecture them on respecting the property and grounds around them. I can’t help but find this little battle I’m witnessing humorous. As I walk by, one of the “defacers” writes the ‘F’ word on a freshly cleaned spot on the statue. I pay respects to the comical nature that comes with being human as I hear someone mutter “you’re fighting the wrong battles, man.” I continue walking…
and observing until I come upon a tent looking quite different from the rest, kinda homey. “Welcome to the Library” a young guy says with a kind smile. Just perfect, I think, walking inside. Somehow, I feel at home slightly reminiscing on my latest travels. I’m happy to find a tent full of FREE books for all, completely organized by subject on handwritten signs, just like a used book store. I’m in love. I want to know this mans story. Why a Library? How’d it come to be? For some reason though, I’m in no mood to talk. Just quietly observe. So, I make a promise to myself that I’ll be back and I continue on my way after browsing through the books, of course.
“Mic check!” a guy yells and a small crowd forms around him ready to repeat anything he says. Curious of what’s to come, I join the group forming. The guy begins to yell while the crowd repeats him word for word, “There are thousands of people down the street. For some reason they have this weird concept that if they stand along a sidewalk with signs, they are making a difference. Lets go get them and show them what will make a difference. Lets take our protest to the streets. The police can’t arrest thousands of people.”
A little annoyed about his judgment rather than solidarity with the other protest, I decide to hang back. The group grabs a huge banner and others run over to join. They begin to walk and someone starts to drum. I find myself following. As we reach the first cross walk waiting for the light to turn for our right of way, a strange noise begins to ripple out from the tunnel of tall buildings lining the street. It’s faint, but getting louder with every moment that passes. It’s a rolling, roaring sound that is building in momentum. We’re all beginning to look around and at each other wondering where it’s coming from. Suddenly, it hits me and I run back across the square while others begin toward the same direction. Standing on the corner of 15th and I, all you can hear is the immense crowd heading toward us. Their footsteps echoing off the buildings causing a slight rumble. Their unified shouts we can now understand, ” WE ARE THE 99% ! ” The Pipeline Protestors have in fact, taken the streets…and so it begins.