- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Wall Street-style protests gaining momentum across the country arrived in the District on Thursday as demonstrators rallying against corporate and government greed called for leadership changes and joined others in Freedom Plaza opposing the war in Afghanistan.

“This cannot be just a protest,” said Brian Grimes of Montgomery County. “We need to make changes. We don’t want the system sold off to the highest bidder. We have to hold politicians to their positions and responsibilities to serve the constituency.”

Mr. Grimes, 34, is part of the Occupy D.C. group that several days ago pitched camp in McPherson Square in Northwest.

The group, like Occupy Wall Street, which formed in mid-September, has complained for weeks that the media as well as corporate and government leaders have ignored their concerns. But on Thursday, President Obama acknowledged them.

“I think people are frustrated,” the president said during a press conference. “And the protestors are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works. They will continue to be frustrated by it until they get a sense that everybody is playing by the same set of rules and that you’re rewarded for responsibility and doing the right thing as opposed to [gaming] the system.”

Amber Darlington, a 22-year-old Pennsylvania resident, said she lost her job and was forced to move into her boyfriend’s house to cover bills.

“I’m frustrated with the economy,” said Ms. Darlington, also an Occupy D.C. member. “I can’t pay my loans because I can’t find a job.”

She said the group joined with the October 2011 Movement, a group that marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan, as a sign of solidarity.

“We wanted to go down together as a group and get our message across better,” said Ms. Darlington, hands shoved into the pockets of her hooded black sweatshirt.

About 100 people attended the rally at Freedom Plaza, just blocks from the White House.

“Everything seems to be out of control,” said Walther Ebmeyer, 76, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., amid the constant thump of drums and the waving of banners demanding, “Bring our war $$$ home” and “Stop the machine.”

“The problem always seems to go back to greed or stupidity,” Mr. Ebmeyer said. “That’s what’s running the country.”

Occupy D.C. members said their plan was to stay in the city indefinitely and that they are expecting more protesters on Saturday.

The New York protests, inspired by the Arab Spring demonstrations in the Middle East, have resulted in mass arrests. More than 700 people were arrested after swarming the Brooklyn Bridge.

The group is one of many that have been organized throughout the country, including in Chicago and Los Angeles. On Thursday, Occupy Philadelphia gathered several hundred people outside City Hall to protest. Earlier this week New York, college students walked out of classes to show their support for the rally.

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