Occupy movement raises voices in Washington
As protests against the financial system spread around the world Saturday, marchers in Washington, D.C., shouted slogans in front of the Treasury Department and held up signs reading "foreclosed" in front of downtown bank branches.
Parallel protests, one calling itself “Stop the Machine” and the other calling itself “Occupy D.C.” converged Saturday to march without a permit through downtown streets from their respective tent cities.
The groups planned to join union organizers and civil rights leaders for a demonstration later Saturday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
By midday, the protests had not faced any resistance from police. “Poverty stinks, tax the banks!” shouted about 200 protesters in front of the white columns of the Treasury Department headquarters. “We are the 99%!”
The Bank of America branch on Washington’s scenic Dupont Circle closed early Saturday, seemingly to avoid a confrontation with protesters. A note taped to the entrance told customers the office was temporarily closed “due to circumstances beyond our control.”
Miles Drake, 60, from Upper Marlboro, Md., drove an hour to join the protests. Drake drives a delivery truck. This was his first time attending a protest since the Occupy Wall Street movement began. “I was waiting to see if it gained steam,” said Drake. Saturday, he felt it had.
“I’ve been outraged for a decade,” said Drake. “I see the inequality in the social structure.”
The two tent encampments in Washington are in downtown squares about five blocks away from each other. Fifty-two tents were pitched in McPherson Square for the Occupy D.C. group Saturday. Protesters had set up a medical tent as well as a makeshift kitchen.
Lacy MacAuley, 32, camped out in McPherson Square until about 1 a.m., when she noticed that water from Friday’s rainstorm had soaked her sleeping bag. MacAuley, who works in the communications department of a think tank in Washington, went back to her apartment. “My tent is not the highest quality," she said. "It didn’t hold off the water.”
U.S. Park Police have given protesters a four-month permit extension to remain camped out in Freedom Plaza near the White House.
That branch of the protest movement, called Stop the Machine, has invited Princeton professor Cornel West to speak at the plaza on Sunday at 2 p.m., said Kevin Zeese, a nonprofit lawyer who has helped organize the protests. West will be in Washington for the dedication of the King memorial Sunday.
-- Brian Bennett in Washington