the big O

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Taking Back the Capitol was a national Occupy event orchestrated by the Service Employees International Union. The intention was to bring Occupiers from across the country to the Smithsonian Mall in solidarity with SEIU and a number of organizations that they work with. Our plan from the beginning was to attend this event as a culmination of our journey.

Our first interaction with the Occupiers was at a national general assembly at the base of the Washington Monument. There were approximately three hundred in attendance from locations as obscure as Duluth, MN and as distant as Hawaii. Each occupation stood up and introduced themselves and relayed the issues and concerns from their cities. One could easily sense the excitement in the air, and recognize that this was not your average GA. This was a rare opportunity for Occupiers from all across the nation to get together and share their stories and propose strategies to drive the movement forward. The crowd was exuberant, yet organized and contained. Even so, the police still felt the necessity to tape off the entire Washington Monument and station fifteen to twenty officers at it’s base. Apparently Occupiers are now vandals as well as revolutionaries…

The next morning we met at the international tent on the Mall to participate in the march to K street, a hub for conservative lobbyists. We set off from the Washington Monument, in the pouring rain, amidst chants for social action and change. We marched down both sides of the street, Occupiers on one side, union members on the other, until we arrived at the intersection of 16th and K street. It was then that the marchers abandoned the sidewalks and took to the street proclaiming it for our own. Each crosswalk of 16th and K street was blocked off by human bodies to block traffic, including a group who had linked arms in front of a banner that read “99% street”. The Occupiers continued on to take over the next intersection while the union members remained, holding the original intersection. The police arrested a few protesters who were designated by SEIU to remain in the street while everyone else was cleared out. By that time occupiers had secured a third intersection. Once the planned arrests were made, the union members and their affiliates marched back to the Mall to conclude their protest while Occupiers implored them to stay and join them. While Occupiers in the third intersection were blockading the street with any means they had, be it linked arms, banners or newspaper dispensers flipped on their side, those in the second intersection were being arrested. Like a funeral march the police cars crept towards the Occupiers final stand. We were warned that if we remained in the street we would be arrested. We stood on the sidewalk and watched the police forcibly remove people by using their horses to intimidate Occupiers out of the intersection. At that point the remainder of people on the street were arrested while onlookers chanted “the whole world is watching!” and “you are one of us!” directed at the cops. As the protesters dispersed, the police dismantled their tents and threw away confiscated signs. Even though we walked away shivering and dripping wet, we left with a sense that there is much more to come from this movement. A few weeks ago, Bill O’Reilly, of Fox News, pronounced the Occupy Movement dead. How about them apples, Bill?