'Occupy Congress' Protesters Swarm Capitol Hill To Represent The 99 Percent
A diverse crowd of hundreds from around the country descended on Capitol Hill Tuesday as the Occupy movement tried to get its point across to a Congress returning from a long recess.
"We came to add to the numbers, to be heard," said Rosetta Star, a social entrepreneur from Asheville, N.C. "We came to inspire others; we came to inspire our children. We came because we can't sit still and pretend like nothing is going wrong, when we feel like the collective bus of the country is getting driven off a cliff."
Star, who with her husband, Jack, runs the restaurant Rosetta's Kitchen and a compostable packaging firm, Jack's Boxes, as well as a third business, said she wanted Congress to stop paying the majority of its attention to the most fortunate.
"Our systems are flawed by a for-profit mentality, and therefore the needs of the masses are being ignored for the profits of the few," said Star, who is managing to make a go of her own entrepreneurial ventures while balancing activism.
"We make a living between hustling for those three different small businesses," said Star, who traveled to Washington with her four children and one of their friends, as well as her father. "We even make a living enough that we got a hotel when we came to Occupy."
"Grandpa and the boys camped" though, she added.
Ryan Blackwell, 18, of Columbia, Mo., said he joined up with Occupy D.C. a week before Thanksgiving, much to his parents' displeasure. "Let's just say I had to defriend them on Facebook," he said.
For all his difficulty with his family, Blackwell saw in Tuesday's gathering a chance for his voice to be heard. "It's gorgeous," he said, referring to a crowd that started small, but was well into the hundreds by early afternoon. "We want our rights back."
Like Star, the teenager pointed to a growing economic disparity in America, but also named as infringements things such as the recent passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, which codifies indefinite military detention of American terrorism suspects. "It's evil," he said.
Roland Fellot, 52, a health inspector from Silver Spring, Md., volunteered to carry a sign calling for the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act, the measure repealed during the Clinton administration that allowed banks and investment houses to unite their businesses. Many blame the measure for allowing banks to get infected with the toxic mortgage assets that sparked the 2008 meltdown.
"The connection to Occupy is that when the backers of removing this actually got their way and they did away with it, that was just a typical example of the top 1 percent, the wealthy, influencing enough politicians here on Capitol Hill to get what they want," Fellot said.
But he said the message demonstrators want to convey is larger than a bill or two.
"The Occupy movement and the issue about 1 percent is so much beyond just one or two acts. It's about the whole system," Fellot said. "The super wealthy have always been heard, and they've usually gotten what they wanted. What's happened of late is they're the only ones who get heard."
"Congress has been screwing us for far too long, and I'm not okay with that, and neither are a lot of people," said Deejay Paredi, 20, of Charlotte, N.C., also singling out the NDAA, which President Obama signed on New Year's Eve.
"It's really taking our rights away, and most Americans do not even realize what's going on," Paredi said. "So I feel like it's up to those of us who are aware to make ourselves heard. Most of this I feel is being done on the down-low. Unless you actually care and are actually interested in what's happening in the government -- most people aren't and don't care -- you don't know that this is happening."
The crowd was largely calm, although a handful of people were arrested for apparently testing the limits of the boundaries set by Capitol Police. One man, William Griffin, was charged with assault on a police officer, a police spokeswoman said. Members of the protest tweeted at the time that police instigated the altercation. Nathaniel Schrier, Clinton Boyd and Heron Boyce were charged with crossing a police line, said Sgt. Kimberly Schneider.
Prostesters also walked the halls of Congress without apparent incident, visiting members' offices, although many lawmakers still had not yet returned to work. By Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of protesters spread out through the halls.
Overall, the protest had much the feel of 2009's Tea Party rallies, minus the tri-corner hats. There were even a handful of the "Don't Tread On Me" flags that have become iconic for the conservative movement.
Rosetta Star said the atmosphere did not surprise her. "I believe that the Occupy movement and the Tea Party movement have a huge amount in common," she said, noting that she has reached out to more traditionally conservative groups in her community on the belief that they share similar problems.
"If we could figure out what we all have in common, then we could truly be the 99 percent," she said. "The 99 percent right now is a slogan that's been taken but hasn't actually been represented. People are trying to, and it's true that the negative situations are being experienced by the 99 percent."
Star said she thought moments like Tuesday's protest would help raise that awareness.
"I believe that we are going to hit a tipping point, and it's kind of un-ignorable and unavoidable," she said, with her 3-year-old clambering around on her back. "The tipping point for me would be when 99 percent of the people become politically active, they participate on some level with what's happening around them in the world that they're living in, other than just their own families immediate needs."
One big difference between the Tea Party and the Occupy movement is that the Tea Party was organized in part as a deliberate electoral effort that helped the Republican Party take over the House of Representatives in 2010. It is not clear what impact Occupy will have in the fall's campaign season, although Democrats have been trying to harness at least some of the energy and feelings expressed by the movement.
Still, Star said that she will keep at it whether others do or not.
"I will always fight the good fight regardless of the expected outcome so that I can always feel clear looking at myself in the mirror, and looking back and reflecting on my own life and my own choices," she said. "Apathy is the worst poison in my mind."
Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.
Related on HuffPost:
Via HuffPost Miami:
When an Occupy Miami member offered evicted protestors vacant apartments in a building he owns in Downtown Miami's Overtown neighborhood, it seemed like the perfect solution: the 'Peace City' space would provide headquarters for the movement and shelter a small faction of the group's most vulnerable members. But it hasn't gone well. Other tenants say the building has become a cesspool of drug use and violence while non-resident Occupy Miami members are trying to distance themselves from the 'radicals' -- all while the two factions are wrestling for control over Occupy Miami's social media sites and future plans.
The feud between the Overtown occupiers and more mainstream members has only gotten worse. The two factions are now battling for control of Occupy Miami's social media sites. The movement's main Twitter account recently announced it had been "hijacked by a small, non-consensus group of radical members." The Occupy Miami Facebook page was also temporarily hacked by someone inside Peace City. Meanwhile, the Overtown occupation is slowly driving away more moderate members.
"This is a black eye on the Occupy movement," says Shannon Reaze, an Overtown community organizer and Occupy Miami supporter who is now helping tenants move out of Paz's building. "The violence and drugs going on here are way outside of what I thought Occupy stood for. This place is destabilized."
...The supposedly hard-core activists here spend their days drinking and getting high. And as Peace City devolves into lawlessness, the most committed occupiers are leaving. Local landowners and politicians want the place shut down, while cops are suspicious. Yet as long as Paz wants the protesters around, nothing short of a demolition order can keep them out.
Via HuffPost DC:
WASHINGTON -- Occupy DC has a new lawsuit involving tents on its hands. But it doesn't involve temporary structures in McPherson Square.
Two protesters arrested during a February action outside Merrill Lynch's offices on 15th Street NW near McPherson Square have filed suit against the Metropolitan Police Department, Legal Times reports. (Read the complaint here.)
The plaintiffs, Samuel Dukore and Kelly Canavan, were part of a "targeted occupation" of Merrill Lynch on Feb. 13 where protesters were raising awareness about Merrill Lynch's reportedly close ties with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Issa, for his part, claims that the reports of these close ties are "wildly inaccurate."
Full story here.
OWS reports via its website:
After the brutal attack on the attempted re-occupation of Liberty Square by NYPD on the 6-month anniversary of #OWS, a number of Occupiers have relocated their base of occupation to Union Square in midtown Manhattan, a point of convergence for several #OWS protests over the past 6 months.
According to reports on the ground, several dozen people slept in the park after the illegal and violent raid on Liberty Square. Over 70 people remain, now on Day 3. Although tents and tables are still banned, Occupiers have brought blankets and sleeping gear. Many are calling it ¨the new Occupation.¨ In addition to holding General Assemblies, Union Square Occupiers are providing vital jail support for those arrested on #M17 as they are released from NYPD custody. So far, the NYPD has made no attempt to remove Occupiers or prevent them from sleeping in the park.
Occupy Long Beach is defending the mother's home. For more information, click here.
Cecily McMillan, an Occupy Wall Street activist once profiled in Rolling Stone, suffered a seizure Saturday night during protest action near Zuccotti Park. Many on-scene reported Ms. McMillan had trouble breathing after she was tackled and handcuffed by law enforcement.
A video uploaded to Youtube late Saturday night purports to show the attack. Two women can be heard commenting, “There’s Cecily,” then there is confusion as the police clearly perform a violent take-down on someone in the crowd.
According to Jeff Sharlet’s November, 2011 article about the Occupy Movement, this may be Ms. McMillan’s second violent encounter with police.
To read the full story, go here.
Cops caught on video about 10 seconds in taking down the woman who had the apparent seizure:
Watch video from inside Zuccotti Park as police moved in late last night:
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The paper reports from last night's chaos at Zuccotti Park:
At one point, a woman who appeared to be suffering from seizures flopped on the ground in handcuffs as bystanders shouted for the police to remove the cuffs and provide medical attention. For several minutes the woman lay on the ground as onlookers made increasingly agonized demands until an ambulance arrived and the woman was placed inside.
By 12:20 a.m., a line of officers pushed against some of the remaining protesters, forcing them south on Broadway, at times swinging batons and shoving people to the ground.
Kobi Skolnick, 30, said that officers pushed him in several directions and that as he tried to walk away, he was struck from behind in the neck. “One of the police ran and hit me with a baton,” he said.
To read the full story, go here.
|@ Greg_Palast : Our photographer ZD Roberts beaten @OWS Zucotti Park by cops. Thrown to ground, hair grabbd, hit with clubs while yelling, I'M PRESS PRESS!|
|@ macfathom : Doubling east on Barclay, and now the ragged front of the march is at City Hall. #OWS|
|@ LuddoftheFuture : girl in the street having a seizure and the cops have her in handcuffs. can this get any worse (live at http://t.co/4pLyy3gP)|
Activists cry out for paramedics. The woman is limp on the ground. "Come on you violent bastards where's the paramedics?"
|@ jeffrae : March is heading north up broadway #ows #occupywallstreet|
|@ macfathom : Dozens of arrests, many cuffed and sitting on broadway waiting for their ride to jail. #OWS|
|@ RDevro : Police are barricading the park. It's cleared. I witnessed countless violent arrests. No way to estimate numbers.|
Cops pulling apart human chains. There are shouts for mic checks. Now, chants start forming. "The NYPD are sweeping through," says Tim on the live stream.
|@ ANIMALNewYork : NYPD just made an announcement that Brookfield has to "clean the park" and Liberty Plaza is officially "closed."|
|@ OccupyWallStNYC : Bagpipers just started marching into the park bringing the party mood with them, NYPD arrested one of them, and things got real heated. #OWS|
|@ JackieHRye : NYPD just "destroyed" the tent in Zuccotti Park, Occupiers call for its re-building. Marching band also going through the park. #OWS|
|@ RDevro : The tent in the middle of the park continues to fill with people planning to stay the night. Lots of energy here.|
Activists ask for more room as the tent is growing, expanding.
"It looks like a floating tent." -- as Tim on his live stream.
|@ OccupyWallStNYC : .@justawall is leading us in a song! "Hit the road, banks! And don't ya come back no more no more no more no more!" #OWS|
Activists have assembled make-shift, cardboard sleeping areas inside Zuccotti Park. The cardboard is joined by a large green tarp.