Freedom Plaza and BoA Action in DC

A quick report from DC:

On Thursday around lunch time I visited the other #OccupyDC encampment, at Freedom Plaza.  It was about at sleepy as the one at Macpherson Square (which I visited, and blogged about, on Wednesday), and the space is wide open and inhospitable, across the street from the massive Ronald Reagan building. Here is one view:

#OccupyDC, Freedom Plaza, October 20, 2011

But I had a nice chat with a woman from California wearing a Veterans for Peace shirt who was camping out there. See below–she’s on the right.

#OccupyDC, Freedom Plaza, October 20, 2011

She told me there had just been a temporary occupation at a Citibank branch nearby (a friend emailed me about that action the next day, so it apparently got some press;  there were also two articles about #ODC in the WashPo the next morning).


I went off to look for the bank, and ended up walking around the back side of the White House (which is looking quite militarized these days!) and then wandering up K St. toward Macpherson Square.  There were lots of people in the streets on their lunch hour. I heard chanting and a loud drum, and there was a parade of about 20 to 30 people marching (it turned out) toward a Bank of America branch for another action. Rather than an occupation it was a “move your money” action–one of the activists was closing his account, and the group rallied in front of the bank branch for about 45 minutes. Here’s what the action looked like:

#OccupyDC BoA branch action, October 20, 2011

It was a pretty small affair.  But two moments stood out for me.  One was when I was waiting to cross the street to get over to where the action was; I was at this intersection:

#OccupyDC, BoA branch action, October 20, 2011

(It doesn’t look like much, but they were loud, and there were almost as many cops as there were activists, so it was pretty impressive to passers by.) I looked at the well-dressed older woman next to me and said, referring to the protesters, “These people are heroes.”  She looked back at me and said, “It’s about time.”

Later, after I’d spent some time at the action and then moved away from it, the parade of activists circled back to go back to Macpherson Square.  There were still only 20 or 30 people, and the lunchtime street crowd was gawking at them but not otherwise reacting to the procession.  So I started whooping and cheering, and only when I did so did several (three or four) other bystanders start cheering.
One lesson for me is that it doesn’t take many people to create public visibility.  Even in DC where the two encampments aren’t as large as those in NYC or Boston they can have effective public actions to remind people that there is resistance.  Also, there may be much more support than there seems to be at first.  This is important to keep in mind as we move toward the winter months.  We can keep the public visibility of the movement with relatively few people.  I am envisioning the winter being spent doing lots of organizing and study groups, but with periodic–even daily–public actions like this to keep it in the public eye and keep generating support.

I also had a great discussion of #OccupyWallStreet and lots of other things over dinner with frequent D&S author Katherine Sciacchitano (author of our current cover story–read it now if you haven’t done so yet; it becomes more timely every day), and Lisa Donner and Marcus Stanley of Americans for Financial Reform, both old friends of mine, both doing incredibly important work.

I have also gotten word that the postponed teach-in by D&S columnist Arthur MacEwan at #OccupyBoston on Friday had a great crowd–over a hundred people, many of whom may have been waiting to hear Bill McKibbon, but who I’m sure were lucky to get to hear Arthur.  And Noam Chomsky’s postponed talk was supposed to take place this afternoon at #OccupyBoston.  And Glen Greenwald is scheduled to speak there on the 29th.

Last but not least:  Heike Schotten sent me this announcement for two upcoming talks at #OccupyBoston:

Mon, Oct 24, 5:30 p.m. – Professor Tom Ferguson on “Money and Politics”

Tom Ferguson teaches Political Science at UMass Boston and received his Ph.D. from Princeton University.  His books include Golden Rule and Right Turn. Most of his research focuses on how economics and politics affect institutions and vice versa. He is a longtime Contributing Editor to The Nation and writes frequently for the Huffington Post and other blogs.

Thurs, Oct 27, 5:00 p.m. – Prof. Luis Jimenez on “The Perils of American Democracy:  The Institutional Basis Behind our ‘Broken Politics’

Prof. Jiminez teaches Political Science at UMass Boston.  His work looks at the political impact that migrants have in their country of origin.

That’s it for now.

–Chris Sturr

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