- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2011

Occupy D.C. protesters and labor advocates formed a human chain Thursday across the Francis Scott Key Bridge, slowing rush-hour traffic as drivers craned their necks to watch the demonstrators wave signs and shout.

The protest was one of several by Occupy camps across the country, including one in New York, where about 175 protesters from Occupy Wall Street reportedly were arrested.

The Key Bridge protest — which began with a march from the demonstrators’ McPherson Square encampment — was to encourage Congress to consider reinvesting in the country’s infrastructure. Occupy D.C. demonstrator John Pepper said the protest, which marked two months passing since the movement began, also was to encourage Americans to spread their wealth.

“It’s true we have no spokesperson or official position,” said Mr. Pepper, 52. “But I think what this is about is resource allocation and how we’re not putting those resources toward meeting human needs. We can afford another fighter jet, but we can’t afford to educate children because democracy is currently up for sale.”

By midafternoon, about 100 demonstrators had reached Georgetown, their path cleared by dozens of police cruisers and motorcycles that had forced traffic onto side streets.

Chanting “We are the 99 percent” and “This is what democracy looks like,” the demonstrators marched to the beat of a drum. Some wore paraphernalia from the Service Employees International Union or the Communications Workers of America and held signs from the National Nurses United union.

At 34th Street Northwest, one street east of the bridge, officers parked their motorcycles diagonally across M Street Northwest so demonstrators could file through one traffic lane to access the bridge.

There were no reports of arrests or injures.

“This is not anti-capitalism. It’s pro-fairness,” said Baltimore resident Ben Riddleberger as he surveyed the protest with his wife and two young sons.

The bridge, which spans the Potomac River into Virginia, is the same one on which President Obama earlier this month pitched a jobs package and championed improving the bridge’s infrastructure.

But Thursday afternoon, it was the Occupy demonstrators and labor advocates, including those from the nonprofit OurDC, who held the spotlight. Some motorists honked because of the sluggish traffic; others to support the protesters.

Passersby snapped photographs of demonstrators on the bridge, some wearing masks and holding signs discouraging what they called corporate greed. Far below, several police boats took to the river.

The D.C. encampment has maintained a relatively peaceful coexistence with U.S. Park Police and the Metropolitan Police Department, despite a recent standoff at MPD headquarters and an unannounced search of McPherson Square by officers looking for Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, 21, who has been charged with attempting to assassinate Mr. Obama.

Joe Brown, a 61-year-old Wheaton resident, said Occupy D.C. isn’t “an angry group.”

“We want the country to pay attention to jobs, the environment and education,” he said.

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