‘Occupy D.C.’ takes up Wall Street protesters’ cause

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Lacy MacAuley of Adams Morgan signed on after hearing of the movement by word-of-mouth. Eric Sponaugle of Olney joined after seeing images of what he called police brutality. “Joe” from Frederick, Md., saw the handmade signs and wondered what all the fuss was about.

“Somebody was really excited about something vague,” said “Joe,” a soft-spoken 37-year-old. “I wondered how someone could get so excited about something like that.”

The movement is “Occupy D.C.,” a fledgling version of the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstration that has crowded New York’s financial center for the past three weeks.

The D.C. version hasn’t yet drawn the thousands of demonstrators the New York version has. In fact, just five people occupied McPherson Square in Northwest on Wednesday morning. But organizers say the numbers fluctuate and point out that about 120 people joined them on Saturday night. Larger crowds of protesters tend to gather around lunchtime and in the evening, when employees leave work.

Supporters have marched twice a day to businesses around the District.

Protesters (from left) Justin Rodriguez, Eric Sponaugle and Lacy MacAuley chat Wednesday at McPherson Square. The three are among a few protesters loosely tied to Occupy D.C. who have been protesting by day and sleeping on sidewalks by night at the square not far from the White House. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)

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Protesters (from left) Justin Rodriguez, Eric Sponaugle and Lacy MacAuley chat Wednesday ... more >

On Thursday, they expect their numbers to swell as they join a rally at Freedom Plaza to mark the 11th anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan and to denounce the use of taxpayer money to fund the war.

The rally, organized by a group called the October 2011 Movement, has been planned for several months, said Mr. Sponaugle, 23, who described himself as “between jobs.” The two assemblies will come together for the joint causes, he said.

D.C. police say they expect up to a thousand people — and they don’t expect any trouble.

The protesters’ complaints — corporate greed, corruption and social injustice — are vaguely defined, but they attract a wide swath of disaffected supporters.

A Montgomery County native, “Joe” asked that his last name be withheld because the protest is one with an “anonymous” face. He said he made his way from North Carolina, where he was doing some part-time tree work.

He and the others, who come and go from the rolling demonstration as their schedules allow, have rallied around the notion that 1 percent of American workers are reaping the benefits of an unequal economy. The 99 percent left are the taxpayers supporting — among other things — wars that cost billions of dollars, Mr. Sponaugle explained.

“We’re all that 99 percent,” he said. “We’re just the people too eager to wait.”

Since mid-September, the Occupy Wall Street protesters — inspired by the Arab Spring demonstrations that unsettled the Middle East — have made headlines for encamping in a park near the financial district and for their theatrical protests.

Hundreds were arrested Saturday after the group swarmed the Brooklyn Bridge, and some of their marches have included dressing as zombies — a metaphor for what they see as a mindless, insatiable corporate culture. Demonstrators have also made claims of mistreatment by police.

Yet the protests have drawn support from unlikely quarters.

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