Starting this past weekend and throughout this week, Occupy DC is celebrating its one year anniversary. Last Saturday, Occupy Our Homes DC had actions at all the Bank of America locations across the District, aiming to shut them down for their Saturday business hours. On Monday, Occupy DC held a protest in McPherson Square on K Street, the symbolic home of lobbying in the District.
As reported on Vox Populi, the actions on Saturday included one at the Bank of America in Georgetown. The Occupiers were there to protest Bank of America’s dealings with Michael Vanzant, a community leader and founder of Faith Church, a church which accepted LGBT members and advocated housing as a human right.
“To show up on a Saturday, I feel it’s the least we can do for Reverend Vanzant, who is an important part of the community, and has done a lot of really amazing things,” said Thomas Meyer, a junior at American University. “And foreclosure’s bullshit. Ben was telling me that there’s like six homes for every one homeless person,” he said, referring to Ben Johnson, a sophomore at AU who organized the action in Georgetown.
Although the protesters were made to take their signs off of the bank by the police, there was no physical confrontation between police and the protesters. The bank remained closed for its entire hours of operation, from 9:00 a.m. -12:00 p.m. The bank posted signs on the doors which read “Due to protest activity we will be delaying opening.” The Georgetown branch would not comment on its decision.
The protest on K Street targeted “the intersection of money and decision making,” as Mookie, a student at Montgomery University, explained. Starting from Farragut Square, the protest moved down K Street, stopping at various financial institutions and lobbying firms on the way to McPherson Square. The march ended in Freedom Plaza, where teach-ins were held.
Even as the Occupiers were making a statement about the culture of Washington, they were wary to outline Occupy’s goals.
“It’s very organic, it’s very spontaneous,” said Eric Lotke.
“It’s still mainly a meeting place,” Mookie said. “I would say that if people do come together, that is the most important thing, letting people know that there are this many people.”
“From what I’ve found out so far, it’s getting stronger, I mean the numbers are growing,” said Jeremiah DeSousa, who has been an Occupier for about a year. “Pretty much everyone I’ve been associated with and camping with for the past year is here and I came to support them.”
The frustrations which first gave birth to the movement are still strong. “I’m a middle class, middle aged guy with two kids. I’m a member of the PTA, I’ve got a job, I’ve got healthcare. I’m fine, thank you,” Lotke said. “But the powers aren’t listening to me either.”
One area in which occupiers say they’ve succeeded is shaping the national political discussion. “When we talk about changing the debate, the debate has been changed,” Lotke said. “Now in the 2012 election, even the namby-pamby Democrats are out there saying we need to raise revenue, we can’t solve deficit problems without raising revenue, we can’t do it all with cuts and you’ve got to go where the money is.”
Not everyone was satisfied with the events of the day. Kenny, who would only give his first name, wished the action had been more aggressive. “I was hoping it’d go like last time we took K Street … we put tents and tables and chair and palettes and newspaper stands and anything that wasn’t attached to the ground was in the street with several hundred people” said Kenny. “I don’t think that anyone had an aggressive plan.”
The police presence was visible, but non-confrontational, with officers even helping to control traffic for the protesters. “The police are generally polite and well mannered, but very excessive in their presence,” Lotke said.
“They’re just letting us get in the street, you know say our chants, they’re stopping traffic for us,” Kenny said.
The police officers had been instructed to not offer comment to reporters.
But, in the end, most Occupiers judged the actions as successful. With as many as 150 people in attendance, the protest was smaller than the demonstrations of a year ago, but still succeeded in shutting down small parts of K Street for short periods of time.
“I hope that people leave here with a better knowledge of what’s going on,” Kenny said. “The physical occupation was making a statement, but while we were here it was a new set of skills being acquired … I’ve learned as much stuff here, and I’ve been able to teach people stuff … education is what it’s about.”
Additional reporting contributed by Miles Gavin Meng and Isabel Echarte.