At about 5:30 a.m. last Friday morning, I went to the tent to get my camera gear. As I was stepping out of the tent, a reporter with WTOP TV here in Washington stepped up to me and said, "You're Jerry Nelson, aren't you?" Nodding yes, I slung the bag over my shoulder and started to walk away. The last thing I wanted the first thing this morning was another reporter asking me questions.
"Could I just ask you one question, Jerry?" I glanced at him, then at the camera man that was already putting the video on the tripod and adjusting the lights to scare off the early morning darkness. As I stared at the reporter, I saw him for what he was. Just another working stiff trying to do his job and it wasn't his fault that he had to wear a Hart Schaffner Marx suit and Gucci shoes. If you took away his combed and coiffed hair, his manicured fingernails, his clean and fresh shave and the scent of Axe, he and I were just alike. Both of us just trying to get the job done.
Sighing, I sat my gear bag down in the mud and glanced at him. Holding up one finger I nodded, "OK, one question. Anymore than one you can ask me at Starbucks -- and it's YOUR treat."
He smiled, nodded in agreement and pointed to his videographer to start the camera. Turning back to me, he held the microphone inches from my mouth and asked his one question. "Why are you here. Why are you doing this. Why is Occupy DC so important to you." I glanced at him and the look in my eyes must've said, "Sorry buddy, but that's three questions. We're heading to Starbucks," because he half-smiled.
I figured his three questions were really just variations of one question, so I gave him a break. Dropping my cigarette into the mud, I watched the glowing ember slowly dissolve into the dirt soup as I thought.
Why am I here? When I got here in October no one knew if Occupy DC would last a day, a week, a month or even longer. Occupy Wall Street was still in Zuccotti Park and the shifting epicenter from the center of finance to the center of government hadn't begun.
I believe that history is being made by Occupy DC. There has NEVER been a protest like it in the history of the country. The closest event in comparison were the "Hoovervilles" erected in urban areas throughout the country during the depression. Those shacks and shanties were built out of necessity however and not out of protest.
Occupy DC is making an impact nationally. As of this date, all of the leading presidential candidates have started talking about the occupy movement. A relatively small group of people have managed to push the national conversation to the left. Where before a politician's business dealings were kept private and only spoken about in hushed tones by other members of the congressional club, national television is throwing a spotlight on them.
People nationwide are becoming politically aware. According to available Facebook statistics, the number of people preoccupied with sharing music videos and cutesy photos is dropping. Rapidly taking over the top spot are links to news stories which throw additional light on the plight of the vanishing middle class.
Watching the last dying glow of the cigarette in the mud, I looked at him, smiled and said, "Everybody's gotta be some place."
Jerry Nelson is a nationally recognized photojournalist and adventure photographer. His work has appeared in many national, regional and local publications including CNN, USA Today, Upsurge, Earthwalkers and Associated Content and he is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post as well as OpEdNews. Nelson travels the country seeking out the people, places and things that make America unique and great. Nelson currently is in Washington D.C. pointing his camera at OccupyDC and freelancing for The Washington Times, the second largest paper in the nation's capital.
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