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Occupy D.C. group comes back on anniversary
Eight months have gone by since chants about corporate greed and government accountability echoed off the office buildings in downtown Washington, but on Monday, protesters plan to take up their flags and megaphones once again as part of the one-year anniversary of Occupy D.C.
The Storm K Street and Shut Down K Street events are scheduled for 7 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., respectively, and include nearly three-dozen business and bank targets for rallying points for participants.
"People are under the illusion we have a system that works ... all of us here are frustrated with the system around us," said Lacy MacAuley, an Adams Morgan resident who was one of the first people in the Occupy D.C. movement. "The problems that brought each of us here are still here."
Ms. MacAuley said she expects "a little friction" from officers Monday, but it is "anybody's guess at this point" as to what the final outcome of the march will be.
Last December, more than 60 people were arrested when Occupy D.C. protesters marched down K Street, blocking intersections and drawing curious employees to their windows to watch as police hauled away people who laid down in the middle of the street.
For nearly five months, Occupy D.C. had a strong presence in the city, setting up headquarters in McPherson Square where up to 250 people were living in tents and shacks. Once a popular spot for employees working in nearby buildings to take their lunch breaks, the park's grassy yard became a patchwork of tarps, colored flags, and dull brown mud.
Park police raided the camp in early February, clearing the devastated park of dirty sleeping bags, broken wooden pallets and several dead rats buried beneath the detritus.
The protesters disbanded in many directions, some going back home to states across the country, while others accepted the charity of friends and family around the D.C.-area.
In June, a handful of the protesters clashed with U.S. Marshals as they opposed the eviction of a woman from her Capitol Hill home. A protester and marshal were injured during the scuffle.
Eleven protesters were found guilty over the summer of failure to obey police orders during an emergency, charges that stemmed from a day-long standoff last year between occupiers and police.
In September, several protesters from the District traveled to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., where they marched and camped for several days.
On Sunday, McPherson Square — the Northwest park that was the cite of the tent city — showed signs of life as several dozen people milled about in small groups or painted signs in preparation of the coming week's events.
Today the park is surrounded with wire fence that protects new grass. The one quadrant of open lawn is on the southwest side, where a ring of flowers was in full bloom beside a small group of protesters meeting in the sun.
Pausing to embrace a familiar face passing by, 30-year-old "Kenny," said he expects Monday's protest to be "well-received."
"This is a protest-friendly city, and the capital of the United States," he said. "I don't think we'll be received negatively. After a year, a lot of people came to accept that whether they're making money or not ... everybody is losing."
Four U.S. Park Police officers patrolled the park for a brief time, reminding protesters that a bookshelf and table erected near the center of the park had to be removed by nightfall.
Park police spokesman Sgt. Paul Brooks said the officers were on a routine patrol of the park, adding that he knew of no police plans on Monday "specifically for any type of McPherson Square incident."
D.C. police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said the department is "aware of the anniversary and we are prepared."
"It is our hope that anyone who chooses to exercise their First Amendment rights to assemble does so under the confines of the law."
Twenty-nine-year-old "Jonathan," from Albuquerque, N.M., said he anticipates "a lot of cops" while "Brian R." of Takoma Park said it is "hard to say what will happen" during Monday's march.
Cleveland resident Tom Jayman said the march would happen along K Street, but plans for any action would mostly "be decided on the spot."
"Having a set plan did not seem the most strategically viable idea," Mr. Jayman, 25, said.
According to a post on the Occupy D.C. website, the remainder of the week will include protests at banks and an anniversary recognition Saturday for the Freedom Plaza protest against war.
Most of the people at the park were unsure whether the anniversary recognition would turn into another long-term occupation, but Ms. MacAuley explained that like the saying about having cake and eating it too, free speech and assembly are not limited by their popularity — or lack thereof — within the city.
"If you want democracy you have to have active participants in the democracy," she said. "That's who we are."
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Meredith Somers is a Metro reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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