(Note: This posting was created by multiple marchers and so contains varying writing styles and opinions.)
March Day 10 – Havre de Grace to Joppatowne, Maryland:
I tiptoe gingerly, aiming for the few specks of white linoleum that peek thru an obstacle coarse of bodies in sleeping bags. It’s 7am and the one-room church is still dark. Pauly and Merielle sleep in the kitchen, almost underneath a cupboard. There’s no hot water in the bathrooms, so I brush my teeth and wash my face in the big stainless steel sink, hoping the noise of running water will not wake them.
Everyone else begins to rise. We eat muffins, drink coffee, get bandaged by Eric, the medic. On a corner piano someone plays the kind of jazz I’d expect to hear in an old Charlie Chaplin film.
When the sleeping bags are stuffed and the packs are out on the porch we all join in on a frantic cleaning campaign. After having left the Bristol Friends Meeting an embarrassing mess in Pennsylvania, we now fulfill our vow to leave each host’s space cleaner than it was when we arrived. I take out all the garbage while others sweep and put away dishes.
By 9:30am, the place is sparkling and the whole group is assembled in the sidewalk, ready to march. A couple of cops wait outside too, watching us as always.
“Mic check!” Merielle says. “I just wanted to use the People’s Mic for a moment of unity… This one is called ‘False Kings.'”
She reads a poem she wrote and we repeat after her, line by line.
“Why does it feel so good today!” Orlando says, as he and I pull the People’s Taxi down a sunny sidewalk shaded by orange leaves.
“It’s probably just that we actually got on the road on time today,” I say. “And we managed to get the place really clean too.”
Panama’s drum beat leads us thru the cheery suburbs and out onto the highway. As we cross a large intersection blocked off by cop cars, one officer looks at me and Orlando with a smile.
“Thanks for marching,” he says.
My heart jumps.
“Thanks for your hospitality,” Orlando says.
“That’s the first time a cop has thanked us for marching!” I say.
I’m reminded that we are doing this for everyone- including the cops. They are not all here to destroy what we’re trying to build. They are not our enemies. They are human beings, doing what they have to in order to survive and support their families.
Cameras orbit us like flies as we march. The press is thick today. A helicopter hovers above the highway, looking down at us. People come out of their places of business to watch us pass. At a car dealership, a salesman asks us what we’re doing.
“Alright, well, f*** you boss!” he jokes. “I’m goin’ with them!”
A soldier drives by in his camo fatigues, leans out the window, shouts, “Thanks for walking! And while we’re at it, let’s stop these f***ing wars too!”
We notice a flag shop on the other side of the highway.
“Mic check!” someone shouts. “How do we feel about spending $30 on a Peace flag?”
Hands go up in the air, fingers fluttering. We send our luggage transport car to the shop. Soon a gigantic tie-dyed flag with a Peace symbol waves above the heads of the marchers.
“You know,” John says. “I like the peace flag, but I’m not sure about the tie-dye. I feel like it says, ‘Hey, peace, man.’ I would like it more if it just said, ‘Peace.'”
During a short break, a supporter stops with a car full of sandwiches. We lounge on a patch of grass and eat. Reporters take this opportunity to conduct interviews.
Shortly after we begin walking again, Turtle shuffles up to me on his painfully blistered feet. He’s a short fellow, very young and eager to be helpful and involved.
“How do you talk to the press?” he says. “I just did an interview and it was my first one and I feel like I said all the wrong things. I was totally incoherent!”
“Just tell the truth and make sure they know you’re speaking only for yourself,” I say. “You’ll get used to it eventually. And don’t worry- when you’re nervous, your brain sees everything in a skewed way. You may have said something really eloquent without even realizing it.”
After having lived in Zuccotti Park for only two weeks, the press no longer fazes me. On any given day there, I was interviewed and photographed at least a dozen times by students, documentarians and big news organizations. Once the novelty of that wears off, you become comfortable enough to speak your mind and not care what anyone thinks about it.
Turtle’s nervous concern is endearing. It shows how enthusiastic he is about the march, how much he cares about getting the right message out to the watching public.
I come up behind Lisa as we walk. Tiny gold cymbals are attached to her thumbs and middle fingers. She taps them together in rhythm with her footsteps. The tinkling belly dancer chimes create a trance-inducing music that floats my mind away from my body and makes walking feel easy and weightless. I slow down and march behind her for over an hour just to stay near the bells.
For lunch, we sit on cushions of long golden grass, eating amazing sandwiches donated by a supporter named Ryan. I take off my boots and socks to cool my feet in the fresh air. They’re tired and aching, but I don’t mind anymore.
Our shadows lengthen and stretch in the early dusk. At the crest of one of the many rolling hills, a middle-aged man waits for us. He thanks us as we pass, handing out Xeroxed copies of a hand-written letter.
“Get one of these to the White House or Congress for me,” he says, giving one to Garth and me.
We read as we walk. The handwriting is like a child’s. The sentences are badly punctuated and many words are misspelled. The word “Graduate” it spelled “gradgiete.”
There’s some snickering from the marchers. It’s as tho some professional author were deliberately writing in a southern hillbilly accent. But the humor wears off quickly. This letter is in earnest- profound upon understanding. It makes me sad that a grown American man is so poorly educated, that his best effort at composing such an important letter to the White House sounds like that of a 7-year old child. I feel sorry for him, and salute his knowing compassion with all my heart.
Dusk turns toward darkness as we rally at a Dunkin’ Donuts on the edge of Joppatowne, our destination for the night. Someone buys us a box of coffee and we take a break, filling every table in the place as well as the sidewalk out front.
Our shelter for the night is a home in a maze of suburbs. Exhaustion sets in as we march thru the quiet neighborhood. People stare out their windows at us as two marchers get into a shouting match. Realizing that is not the way to announce their presence in a new town, the shouters put off their differences until later.
We arrive to find our packs piled high in a room off the entryway. Except for a few couches, the house is basically empty. The table off the kitchen is piled high with sandwich fixings, chips and salsa, soda, cookies and other food. We dig into it without hesitation.
The many rooms in the house offer separate sanctuaries into which we can all spread out. Garth and I make our bed in front of a big screen Television that dominates the downstairs livingroom. It’s a dark, quiet escape from the loud swirl of activity upstairs. A few other marchers come down there too, but most fall asleep right away.
Someone reads from a news feed on his phone: “The NYPD says it is unsafe for churches to house protestors.”
“At no point in history have people not been able to claim sanctuary in a church,” Knoxville says.
They are really trying hard to exterminate this movement.
Occupiers from Liberty Park(Zuccotti) call Liz’s phone. We put it on speaker and gather around. They tell us that 35,000 people marched on the Brooklyn Bridge the day after the raid, that protestors piled up the police barricades that surrounded the park and jumped on them like a trampoline. We cheer. They tell us the police took hundreds of phones from jailed demonstrators, claiming they’d been lost.
Despite the raid, Occupy Wall Street remains alive and active. They can take away our books and our tents, but they can’t take away our convictions, our drive, our determination. When they took down Zuccotti park, they built up our solidarity.
I hear a jam session going on upstairs and I can’t help but join in spite of my tiredness. I sing in harmony with John and Jackie as Alex plays the guitar. We do “I wanna hold your hand” and “Fire and Rain” to resounding applause.
The nightly General Assembly begins at 1am. By this time I’m too exhausted, retiring to my downstairs nest only a few minutes later.
March Day 11 – Joppatowne to Baltimore, Maryland:
A group of slower marchers, including Lisa, Turtle and our new Medic, Frosty, leave early today so they can get ahead instead of being left behind.
The house is a disaster when I wake up. It takes me an hour to put away all the leftover food, clean the table and counter tops, wash all the dishes by hand and scrape grime off the stove.
We’re hovering on the porch and driveway with our bags, waiting on a last check of the house, when Citizen, our resident photographer, makes a disheartening announcement.
“Mic check!” he shouts. “Last night during the General Assembly, my wallet was stolen from my pants!”
It had around $200 in it. We vote to reimburse Citizen out of the march fund.
“People will think they can steal money and it won’t matter because the General Assembly will just reimburse them,” Mike says. “I want Citizen to get his money back, but that’s a dangerous precedent to set.”
We also find that a few of our marchers disappeared during the nite, leaving behind their backpacks. No one knows for sure where they went.
A car passes us as we march out of the cookie-cutter neighborhood full of big, clean suburban homes. The driver opens his window and asks what we’re doing.
“We’re marching to D.C.,” someone says.
“Oh, you’re those wackos!” he replies.
“Yep. We’re those wackos.”
“Get a job!” he shouts.
“Get some originality!” I shout.
That’s usually the only thing our non-supporters can find to say to us. If they were paying attention, they’d know that at least half of us have jobs, and that big part of our protest is the fact that there are very few jobs to be had. I advocate actually knowing what’s going on before commenting on it or judging it. That way you’ll have something intelligent and informed to say, and you won’t sound like a mindless parrot.
Another heckler car goes by. As the driver jeers at us from inside it, a clip-on American flag falls from his car window onto the road. Garth picks it up and waves it. The driver comes back, gets out of his car, yanks the flag violently from Garth’s hand and shouts, “Idiots!”
Suburbia is more hostile than any of the “Bad Neighborhoods” we’ve walked thru. These are the people whose American Dream is turning into a nightmare. They still want to believe that shackling themselves to debt in order to get a cut-rate education, a house a car and a television is the way it has to be. They are not the 1%, but they desperately want to be. They are always close enough to taste it, but forever too far away to touch it.
They have everything they’re supposed to have, but their lives are a constant struggle. They are still working hard and they do not want to think, even for a fraction of a second, that their work is in vain, that they will never be a part of that coveted upper echelon. They do not want to open up their eyes for fear that they will see that they’ve worked their whole lives away in order to become something that they will almost surely never become.
If an alternative society is possible- if there is another way to live- does that mean all the time and energy they’ve spent almost-but -not-quite achieving the American Dream was a waste of time?
Contemplating this question when your life is already half over could drive a person mad. No wonder they don’t want to peel away the layers of upper middle-class American Life and find out what’s really happening. Who would want to pick apart a life they’ve worked so hard for just to find that its very foundation is nothing but a thick layer of rot and deceit?
Out on Highway 40, a chorus of encouraging honks lifts our spirits from the dredges of the weird morning. We pass a flea market and an elderly man runs up to the chain-link fence with a small flag. He hands it to Bo over the barbed wire.
While we walk, a CNN Radio reporter follows us. Kelly tries to get me to go talk to him.
“We need to represent women!” she says. “And I’ve done way too many interviews.”
She walks me over to him. He’s already talking to Garth.
“You should talk to Sarah,” Kelly says, “She’s amazing.”
He’s not interested. He speaks only to Garth.
I walk with Pauly instead. We come to the subject of taking basic comforts, like hot showers and microwave ovens, for granted. He tells me that when he was a kid, the bathtub was outside. He had to get water from a well and boil it and pour it in the tub in order to bathe.
A woman driving a red SUV stops us at an intersection to say thank you and give us $20. This kind of support is something I will never be able to take for granted. I still can’t believe this is all really happening.
When we stop for lunch, a man stops in a red truck that reads “We are the 99%” across the windows. He unloads tons of sandwiches and fruit. A couple of women come over and donate a box of Girl Scout cookies. Merielle meets a homeless man named Jim and invites him to eat with us.
“This is why we’re walking,” she says as she introduces him to us.
Dusk springs up behind the falling sun as we walk across the border of Baltimore. A young man stops his truck on the highway shoulder and runs toward us, waving a $20 bill.
“I’m the workingman!” he proclaims. “I support you and I hope you win!”
At a gas station, a large-bellied middle-aged man stops us.
“Do not go up that hill!” he warns. “They will kill you! This little stick you have will not protect you!” he gestures to John’s flag pole.
The Baltimore neighborhood we’re about to walk thru is supposedly the most dangerous we’ve yet crossed thru. People keep telling us to avoid it at all costs. This man is by far the most dramatic. One thing my travels have taught me, though, is that people like to perpetuate their claims to fame. Even if they are famous for something negative. And if someone has done nothing else worth claiming in their life, they will claim the reputation of the city they live in.
“Less talk! More walk! Less talk! More walk!” some of the marchers begin to chant.
We continue along our planned route.
James walks next to me, striding evenly and calmly with his walking stick, an ever-present look of serenity on his face. He has traveled much of the world with no money. He’s walked more than any of us. He started the march in NYC and has felt no pain and made not a single complaint on this whole trip. James always sits quietly just outside the group, always watching, but never getting caught up in any of the arguments.
He knows a lot about the world and life, but he doesn’t make a big deal out of himself, and he’s always willing to speak with whoever approaches him. Except for his tall, lanky frame and his beard and short black dread-locks, the first word that comes to mind whenever I look at him is “Buddha.” He is a well-traveled wise man and one of my very favorite new friends. When everyone else is being dramatic, you can always go to James for a straightforward picture of reality, based on nothing but life experience.
“So what do you think, James?” I ask him. “Are we gonna die?” I say it with a smile, because I have an intuitive feeling that we’ll be just fine, but I want to know what he thinks of all the drama.
“That dude back there don’t know nothin’ about the hood,” he says matter-of-factly. “He did not look hungry. That dude sittin’ at McDonald’s with the holes in his shoes looked hungry.”
Simple and straightforward. How does anyone who’s never gone hungry know anything about what it’s like to live in real poverty?
A fellow in a postman’s uniform stops to give us a $25 donation as we get closer to the city limits.
As we approach the “Welcome to Baltimore” sign, I ask Merielle what she thinks about walking thru bad neighborhoods.
“People have a lot of fear in their hearts,” she says. “But one thing I’m learning on this walk is that the people of my country are mostly good, but they’re stuck in difficult predicaments that other people keep them in.”
A desperate human being, even if they are inherently good, can be a dangerous human being. And American society, as it currently is, makes sure that many people are kept unnecessarily desperate.
We snap a couple of group photos in front of the Baltimore sign and move forward. We pass thru one of the most dangerous parts of Baltimore without a single problem. It is quiet and no one says a word.
A group of people from Occupy Baltimore meet us in Patterson Park. For the first time, we have arrived at our destination ahead of schedule. A few press and onlookers loiter on the edges of the group, so Kelly and I facilitate an instructional General Assembly.
During the GA, a cop interrupts to tell us the park is closed. A bunch of us surround him, making the “Point of Process” sign that the GA uses to tell someone they’re speaking out of turn or off topic. The cameras record it all.
Our numbers swelled by the Baltimore people, we march into downtown. All of a sudden, Kelly, Melvin and I decide to take the streets. Leading everyone down the center line with our fists in the air, we chant “We are the 99%!”
We march straight at oncoming cars, flowing between the lanes. Traffic stops in the sea of shouting people. Police officers begin to follow us, blocking intersections. I turn around and walk backwards, shouting chants to the crowd of marchers behind me.
The force of our energy is explosive. It makes me walk faster and scream louder. Nothing else exists. Not exhaustion. Not the pain in my feet. Not the hunger in my stomach. I could march twenty more miles on this energy. I feel strong and I feel alive. Nothing can stop us.
We make a detour to attend a rally about homelessness in front of City Hall. The minute I sit down, my feet begin to hurt again and tiredness creeps into my bones. But I like the feeling. It means I’m living my life to the fullest, taking advantage of every moment. It means I’ll be able to sleep well tonight.
At Occupy Baltimore, we get plates of food and wait for all our backpacks to arrive. At the end of the Baltimore GA, they ask a couple of us to talk about the march. Melvin and I tell a couple of stories. When that’s over, we celebrate shoeless marcher Owen’s birthday. He’s 23 today. The GA presents him with a huge cake. There’s a weird wiry piece of something stuck in it. Kelly found it on the side of the highway. Each of its branches are decorated with little notes we wrote him while we were walking. The whole group sings him happy birthday. Fireworks blast off behind the tall buildings of Baltimore.
A neurologist/record producer donates his house to us. A few local people shuttle us there in cars. It’s a labyrinth of a house, so we all easily fit inside. Three floors full of oddly-placed rooms and passageways, all painted in bright rainbow colors. Painted branches and leaves crawl along its ceiling and shelves. There are chapbooks, strange manifestos and weird art everywhere. The furniture is straight out of the Jetsons. Mike serves as DJ, blasting good music throughout the house. We dance and sing and drink wine that was brought there for us. I would love to meet the owners of this house, but they are on vacation. We record a video and send it to them via email.
I feel so good, surrounded by incredible people, amazing music, a beautiful house. I love being a part of the atmosphere this march has inspired. I do a little jig in my chair, grinning from ear to ear. Michael laughs at me.
“I just really like my life!” I say. “I love this so much! I can’t even explain it!”
“I know!” he says.
It just seems to get better and better as each day passes. There are only two days left of this march and I do not want it to end.
Day 12 – Scheduled Break in Baltimore:
The home owner’s vinyl records play all day over a high-end sound system with speakers located throughout the main floor and backyard. An entire central room is dedicated to vinyl, with many thousands of records filling shelves up and down every wall. A steady all-day rain keeps the outdoor music from being heard, though, as few marchers venture from their refuge for any other reason than a cigarette.
Our media group sets up office for 10 hours in a second-floor child’s bedroom who is out of town with the family. It’s the only room with a somewhat-clear desk and relatively quiet atmosphere, where some 7000 words are composed. Most socializing takes place in the kitchen/dining area, largest open space in the house, while the more restive marchers watch movies and sleep throughout the basement and second floor. One thing is certain, there is more life in this home today than any other home for many blocks away. This is a day when the stresses of the road melt away and discussing those experiences from a comfortable distance bonds us strongly as a group. One of our major lessons learned as a marching unit is that a relaxing break environment is vital to morale and unity.
An NYCmarch2DC Twitter update photo shows many luxuries including pizza and beer in the kitchen at dinnertime. This further offends some Baltimore Occupiers who are already upset that very few marchers are spending the day with them downtown at the McKeldin Fountain Plaza encampment. A group of nurses is there to treat our feet but almost no marcher patients show up. Those most in need of treatment decide to take care of themselves or be treated by the marcher medic in the home rather than expend energy commuting to the encampment.
We do apologize to anyone who was offended and recommend the following solutions to any other current or future marching groups: When taking an off-site break in a community that has an Occupation, open channels of real-time communication with the Occupation and choose marcher delegates to visit the site. If no delegates are up to spending an entire day there, then work in shifts. As for communities that do not have an active Occupation site, there will still often be small groups or individuals interested in meeting with marchers. In this case, the best solution is to invite them to come to you. If that is not possible then use the delegate system.
Above all, marching serves as an outreach. Marchers should consider it imperative to make themselves available. In small communities without active Occupations, marches may be the locals’ first-ever personal contact with the Occupy Movement. Whether they be rural first-contacts or urban reinforcements, do not miss such vital opportunities.
Concerning Alcohol: Overnight hosts will undoubtedly insist on offering this to marchers from time to time. In that case, encourage them to provide beverages of a low alcohol content. Establish a culture amongst the marching group that it is unacceptable to drink until drunkenness. Pace yourself, remembering that even a very slight blood-alcohol level will maintain an elevated mood. In the words of a popular high school lecture series, “Just Say Know”.
March Day 13 – Baltimore to Langley Park, Maryland:
The more energetic marchers pass through the house knocking loudly on every door at 6:30AM, “It’s the time we agreed on getting up. Let’s clean the house so we can leave on time.”
Bodies slowly begin to rise from every bed, every floor, everywhere. Someone has apparently even been sleeping in the downstairs bathroom all night with the door locked.
Marchers are just beginning to pile their packed bags outside at 9AM and we have yet to say our goodbyes to Occupy Baltimore, or even to fully arrange our rides there. Today’s schedule had been changed during a GA very late last night, upping our walking miles to 31 so that we may have more visibility in D.C. tomorrow by arriving earlier. Seeing the clouds thickening, knowing the journey will continue hours past midnight, even two New York City marchers take the train ahead to conserve energy for that final important day.
Two marching women recognize a big man who joins the group downtown. They refuse to continue, knowing he has been accused of assaulting Baltimore women. One female marcher stands in the big man’s way and he pushes through her rather than passing to her side. This prompts a few male marchers to block the man’s path. He takes off his gloves, acting as if he’ll fight but instead walking around the men. He follows the march for a short time then disappears.
The sky does not unleash its wetness until lunch, at which time the manager of a supermarket requests that our meals be consumed away from the front doors. The rain is not an instantly drenching one, but a nonstop light dripping that will continue throughout this epic journey. It’s a somber moment when the trusty People’s Taxi must be left behind just a day away from our destination. The hills are simply too big and the marchers too tired. Upon our day-two impromptu purchase of the Taxi, a following reporter had stated, “That will be in a museum someday.” Now we may never know…..
A car accidentally knocks marcher Citizen off his bicycle at low speed, slightly injuring his ankle but not enough to keep him from riding on. Still some 16 wet miles to go after dark. Moral is low with very little media presence, few honks and virtually no Twitter communications. The New York City marchers who’d earlier taken the train are the owners of our primary Twitter phone, and they didn’t know that most other phones in the group were incapable of using the service.
Not until after midnight does the march enter the Washington D.C. suburb of College Park, missing a turn and becoming lost for an hour. It’s two hours later before arrival to our last-minute-arranged host, the Casa de Maryland in Langley Park. They provide a tiled room at the rear of a massive multi-use brick building that resembles a private mansion. What happens next would not best be described as “4 hours of sleep”, but rather “4 hours of unconsciousness”.
March Day 14 – Arrival to Washington D.C.:
A number of police cars await our 7:30AM emergence at the rear of the huge brick building. We are rejoined by the 2 New York marchers who yesterday took the train. Rain still falls as half the group remains behind to continue resting while the rest march onto the University of Maryland campus. Noticing our route alterations days ago, UMD students had become concerned that we would not be passing through as planned. Occupy UMD organizer Todd Waters posted the following plea in a comment to this site:
Hey guys! ……. Occupy University of Maryland has been raising money and organizing a kickass welcome with several other student groups participating and providing much of the leg work. This is the first time we have been able to get widespread support for the occupy movement on campus and it has changed the attitudes of many of the students who were on the fence. Furthermore, many students want to join you on the final leg of your march to the capitol.
With this in mind, today’s meeting with UMD students is a very special occasion. They welcome us with delicious humus breakfasts wraps, more than we can eat, at a Food Cooperative located within the Stamp Student Union building. They join us for a public GA in a lobby outside the Cooperative then march on with us towards the city.
Six miles away at the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station, the marchers who had earlier slept in meet back up with the rest. The number is doubled yet again by supporters who have come to join this final leg of the journey. A student named Bonnie delivers lunch as we crowd together underneath the Metro platform, avoiding the rain. She’s missed three classes and has a test tonight, working in her kitchen since 7AM to prepare more food than we can eat.
A brief but dramatic conflict emerges among supporters just as we are about to eat. The DC Occupation has been split into two camps for several weeks. Some people want us to first visit the Freedom Plaza encampment while others insist on McPherson Square. Marchers quell the disruption by holding a private GA in a small semi-private area between the concrete Metro walls and a construction trailer. A supporter guards the only entryway to that space, keeping out the media and the supporters who had been arguing. Marchers soon emerge with the final decision not to change the original plans- we will march to McPherson Square first simply because it was the first Occupy encampment in DC.
Police ask us to move the food away from the Metro entrance because pedestrian traffic is backing up. The march moves on as many people are still chewing mouthfuls of food. More supporters emerge from various homes and businesses, dressed in ponchos and holding umbrellas to join us on this final stretch. We are now a mass of some one-hundred people, enough to take the right two lanes of Rhode Island Avenue. Local Occupiers struggle to keep marchers out of the third lane, saying that taking the streets is legal in DC as long as all the lanes are not blocked. Police cars often rush through the open lane, lights and sirens blazing, moving ahead to block vehicular traffic.
The 14th Street intersection is completely clogged with reporters and cameras, frantically competing for the best shots as the flowing marcher mass overtakes them. Although most of the original marchers don’t know the city geography, it is clear that we are very close. “DON”T STOP FOR THE MEDIA!”, people yell from within the march, knowing that even a few people stopping for interviews in the street will interfere with all movement.
We make the turn at K Street and there it is right in front of us…...Occupy DC at MCPHERSON SQUARE! Fourteen days and 230 miles later here it is. This is a glorious moment even for those who just joined a few blocks ago, but especially for the dozen original New York City marchers.
These few moments of passing down the McPherson walkways lined with cheering supporters will be a time that we will remember even long after our minds inevitably begin to fail us with old age. Even those who are most embarrassed by such attention are also greatly inspired by it.
As previously agreed upon by marchers, we hold a GA/press conference at the center of McPherson Square by the statue of a Union Army general that is the park’s namesake. Rain pours as mud squishes under our feet. Reporters struggle to keep their expensive equipment dry with bags and umbrellas. Marchers are crushed up against a circular fence surrounding the statue. “MOVE BACK MEDIA! WE’RE NOT HERE FOR YOU!”, someone screams, forgetting in the melee that this is indeed intended as a press conference.
Media reluctantly complies, forming a muddy gap between themselves and the marchers, with supporters gathering to the rear. We begin the event just as other public GA’s have been done, with a general overview of the GA process and hand signals. This particularly bothers a certain radio reporter who interrupts the process,
“Some of us have deadlines so we………”
Marchers cut him off, shouting back, “Point of process”, while holding up the triangular hand signal associated with that action.
The reporter yells back, “THE FIVE O’CLOCK NEWS DOESN’T WAIT!”, then sullenly looks away as the GA overview continues.
He and at least one other reporter attempt to interrupt in the same way on at least two other occasions but are again “point of processed” by marchers. Although silent, many other members of the media show disapproval of the overview with their eyes alone. A respectable war photographer who spent multiple days with the march will later harshly scold us for a “missed opportunity”, noting that several reporters left very early.
Future marches may wish to internally discuss their relationship with the media at great length. Is it more productive to hold the media captive for the GA process or consider them active members of the GA and comply with their consensus? As for our group, we decided that exposing the media to the GA process was paramount. Groups that choose to consider them active full participants in the GA may need to establish special procedures in the event that the process is sabotaged.
A heckler pushes his way into the GA crowd, strategically timing his shouts between our “mike checks”.
“OCCUPY IS A HOAX!”, he screams over and over again, “FOLLOW THE MONEY!”
Several Occupiers gather to block the heckler from moving in further, thankfully saving us from an uncertain well-publicized scene.
Individual marcher reportbacks are the GA highlight, brings both the speakers and onlookers to tears. Injured marcher Raghu, who’d left us some days ago, briefly returns for one of the most emotional reportbacks.
McPherson Square Occupiers escort marchers to a big brand new standing-room tent immediately after the GA. “We put this up just for you”, they explain, “This is your embassy”. After a short break there we march on some blocks to Freedom Plaza, home of the other Washington DC Occupy encampment. Some opponents complain that the Freedom Plaza Occupiers are not the real thing, that they have a leader and a different decision making process. A quick visual appraisal of both camps leaves one with the impression that Freedom Plaza is much more organized and well-built than McPherson, but it also must be taken into account that McPherson is built upon grass that’s turning to mud while Freedom Plaza is pavement. Another obvious difference is the average ages of McPherson and Freedom Occupiers, with the latter containing a much higher number of activists over 50 years old. Freedom also has working electrical outlets, while the McPherson outlets have been shut off by the city.
Freedom Occupiers lead us into their main meeting structure, securely made of blue tarps tightly wrapped around a PVC frame. The 15-foot ceiling is reinforced with criss-crossing wires, with the tent remaining solid under wind gusts. We fill the structure with some 50 people, standing room only. Steam rises from a set of halogen flood lamps.
“The media will be asked to leave before we begin discussing protest actions”, a speaker announces, “Is there any media here?”
“I’m not media”, a young man with a huge camera on his shoulder replies, “I just have a really nice camera.”
“Who are you?”, someone asks a very large older gentlemen.
“I’m a federal whistleblower”, he replies, followed by an all-around applause.
“I’m media”, a small younger man says, “and I understand. Just tell me when to go.”
His request to leave comes minutes later after opening statements and a plywood door is closed behind him.
“Like they can’t hear us through the tarps”, someone jokes in good nature.
The steamy blue room is the ultimate revolutionary scene, suitable for any Hollywood blockbuster fiction.
Our next action will ultimately be the last official activity as a marching group. We walk one mile down Pennsylvania Avenue to the steps of the US Capitol building, its massive dome glowing white against the black-orange fog illuminated by the city’s countless street lamps. Looking far down across the National Mall, the top of the Washington Monument is totally consumed by the low sky. There are as many police as there are marchers and supporters here at the base of the Capitol Building. Both they and us move slowly and deliberately in the mist, at a distance and not paying much obvious attention to one another.
Just a handful of media still follows, including a crew from the PBS News Hour. A GA is held on the Capitol steps, facilitated by two marchers who have never facilitated a GA before.
“We will start with announcements. Are there any announcements”, a facilitator asks.
“There is hot cheese bread right here”, someone yells.
“Are there any more announcements?”……….
“No….OK we will now open up the GA for agenda items. Would anyone like to propose an agenda item?”
“How about letting Micheal talk about the Super Committee”, someone proposes. Micheal, one of the march organizers, speaks eloquently about the failed Committee for some time then answers questions. A few more people arrive to the GA from McPherson to make announcements, then there is silence once again.
“Can we get a temperature check on ending this GA”, a facilitator asks.
Twinkle fingers rise all around.
This positive human energy the world has transferred into this march shall be magnified and repaid a million times over. A long-buried seed sprouted on September 17th with the inception of Occupy Wall Street. This march was its first generation fruit. Seeds have now been sown from New York City to Washington DC, and each these seeds has been digitally cloned countless times, spread to all corners of the globe. The germination period shall now shorten with each new cycle, progressing the movement at an ever greater speed and scope. Every person on this planet shall soon realize- this is unlike anything humaniny has ever experienced.