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Occupy DC Protest Marches On

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Signs from the Occupy DC protest in McPherson Square on Wednesday | Arin Greenwood/The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON -- A group of roughly 30 Occupy DC protesters remained in McPherson Square on Wednesday, gathering for a noontime "General Assembly" meeting to discuss their ongoing action in the nation's capital, now in its fifth day.

The first order of business? Finding someone to speak with a member of the Chilean media. One man offered himself up as a native Spanish speaker. The tough part of the meeting was over.

Eric Sponaugle, wearing purple sunglasses, a purple tie and feathers in his hair, handed out fliers while announcing the day's protests. Starting just after the assembly, the group would be heading to the job-cuts rally on Capitol Hill. Later, closer to 5 p.m., they planned to march on the Washington Ideas Forum being held at the Newseum, where former Vice President Dick Cheney and current Vice President Joe Biden were expected to be in attendance.

Occupy DC has begun to distribute a one-page flier which lists the group's direct action as including one to two marches "organized daily." The occupation period, according to the page: "INDEFINITE."

Reports had hinted that Occupy DC would merge with another protest group, Stop the Machine, which was scheduled to start its activities in Freedom Plaza on Thursday. Rob Wohl, a 22-year-old think tank research assistant who has been a regular participant of Occupy DC, stopped by the square on his lunch break Wednesday for the noon General Assembly. Wohl told The Huffington Post that Tuesday night, Occupy DC had decided not to merge after all.

"There's a lot of symbolic importance to being on K Street," he said, referring to the iconic heart of D.C.'s lobbying industry. "We figure, let a thousand flowers bloom. They can do their thing, we're going to stay here."

Wohl said that no decisions have been made -- and, probably, no decisions will be made -- about the specific policy issues that Occupy DC will be asking for, no matter how many reporters ask them to do so.

Media members have had a large presence at the protests so far. At Wednesday's General Assembly alone, there were representatives from ABC News, PBS, The Daily Caller and Religious Dispatches, among others, all asking Occupy DC to announce some sort of decision about what they want.

"We think what's important is changing the conversation in this country," Wohl said, "to focus on inequality, unequal access to the political system, the lack of opportunities that the economic crisis has led to for working people and students. We're not going to be putting out position papers."

"Right now this is a call for justice," he added. "We're all mad about the same things. We're not really sure how we're going to fix it. In some ways that's not our job. We're just saying that business as usual in this country is no longer acceptable. That's what protesting is about. Being in the street and listening to everyone is the way we get there. Yes we can!"

Brian Merritt, a minister at the Palisades Community Church and a member of Occupy DC's media group, said he's not frustrated by the lack of specific policy objectives. "Can you tell me the point program that Martin Luther King, Jr. had when he gave the 'I Have A Dream' speech? Just because we have 24-hour news cycles, that's not how direct democracy works."

Plus, Merritt said, he's satisfied that as much as the group needs to point to specificities, they are.

"Student loan debts. They have unemployment rates that are at historic highs. There's stuff about banks," he said. "We're on K Street because of what has been the corruption of powerful corporate influences into our political process. They've even said stuff like overturn, what is it, Glass-Steagall? How much more specific and wonky can you get in D.C.?"

"If there are so many issues that groups like this can come up with, that means they're systemic issues," Merritt continued. "If there's a systemic group of issues that everybody needs to confront, that means we have a sick society."

Elizabeth Schwartz, a 29-year-old unemployed astrologer in a long, rainbow-print skirt, has been in McPherson Square on and off since the protest began. Standing in front of Occupy DC's food cache -- three cases of bottled water; some lightly salted kettle chips; a half-eaten tub of animal crackers; some unwrapped, frozen cheese and pepperoni pizzas; and a bottle of hand sanitizer -- Schwartz offered some additional policy concerns.

"The financial system of this country, I feel is headed in a very dangerous direction," she said. "If the corruption continues and they allow the corporations to keep privatizing profit and nationalizing debt."

Schwartz also said that she's been looking at astrology charts, and due to Libra, things are looking auspicious.

"I have to look up where Uranus is because Uranus is the planet of revolution and change," she said.

A big-bearded man named Bear who said he's 70 years old and declined to give his last name, sat down on a bench across from the food cache, next to an "End Corporate Personhood" sign. Around him, members of Occupy DC were being interviewed by members of the media. Bear teared up.

Bear had heard that American University students were walking out of class and coming to join the protesters in McPherson Square. The group "Occupy Colleges" asked college students to walk out of class and join the protests Wednesday.

"When that happened in Egypt that was the beginning of the end ... as far as I'm concerned this is a very good start for our protest," he said. "For me personally, all I want from it is what my country promised me. I want a job, which I haven't had for about three years now. I want a home, which I haven't had for about two years now. I want to be able to take care of my family. That's all I'm asking."

"Things have gotten so bad that people are standing up saying they can't take no more of this," Bear said. "I think if you ask any of the people out here they'll tell you it's time for change. What can we do? We're doing it."

WATCH: Occupy DC In McPherson Square

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