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Occupy D.C. marches through downtown

- The Washington Times - Monday, October 1, 2012

Members of Occupy D.C. once again took to the streets Monday with voices angry about economic inequality and colorful flags demanding accountability as they stepped off for their first substantial march in eight months.

Flashing signs and singing about solidarity, the marchers made their way along the downtown lobbying corridor on K Street Northwest during several marches throughout the day that included police escorts and an audience of curious onlookers.

The marches were part of the first day of a weeklong celebration to recognize the one-year anniversary of Occupy D.C., which will include more protests and small-group assemblies in the days to come.

"It's another stage in the movement," organizer Lacy MacAuley said. "We've moved out of the tents and into the streets."

Organizers this week said the goal of the anniversary events is to show people that while their protest style might be different, the message about unequal distribution of power and wealth is the same.

"Last year, it was about long-term occupation," said Micah Turner, a 24-year-old resident of New York City. "This time it's conservative bursts [of action] so people can go back to their jobs and still participate."

Woodbridge resident George Thompson was at a bus stop across from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce when the protesters made their way to the front steps.

"I think it's just another protest," the 40-year-old said. "There's no clear leadership. I think a lot of the time its people who have nothing to do."

Last year, Mr. Thompson said, it seemed the group was upset about a lack of jobs.

"I understand what they're talking about and agree with some of what they're saying, but I don't think people understand everything they're trying to get across," he added.

Occupy member Brian Eister said that "a lot of organizing is going on now and reorganizing within the communities."

"The challenge is how to translate that support in the community into action in the community," he said.

Last October, downtown park McPherson Square became the muddy site of a tent city where up to 250 people lived in shacks, tents and lean-tos for five months. Over the course of the park occupation, police arrested more than 100 people during protests and rallies, including a march on K Street during which more than 60 people were arrested when protesters plopped down in the middle of the street.

After the tent city was raided by police in February, protesters dispersed to their homes or took up other causes across the city.

Today, the park is once again green; fencing protects most of the lawn from people trying to walk across the grass. Neighboring Freedom Plaza, a few blocks from the park and the White House, was the protest headquarters Monday morning. There, people rested on the stone benches and used the wide sidewalks to paint signs.

A D.C. police spokeswoman said no one had been arrested by mid-afternoon Monday.

Barry Knight, one of the active protesters last year, was back in town to hold signs with the marchers. He said he would have liked to see more people as well as "more public presence and more action to maintain the public eye."

He said last year's demonstrations were akin to a first step, while the next step is more about education and awareness.

"We need to get everyone to wake up," Mr. Knight said. "Democracy is not a spectator sport."

Two men who unknowingly became spectators to the march were Tony Davis and Joe Campbell, facilities men for an office building along K Street.

Sitting on a park bench as the march went by, Mr. Campbell, 30, said he wasn't aware of the occupation's one-year anniversary and week-long recognition.

While protests don't bother him too much, Mr. Campbell said they can be annoying "when they shut down where people are trying to work."

As she waited for the street to clear where she had parked her car, District resident and neighborhood commissioner JoAnne Prue watched the marchers chant outside the Pepco office building.

"I'll go walk around and pay some bills," she said with a laugh. "It is what it is. We all have a voice, they have a voice, and their voice is being heard."

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