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Occupy Congress: Live Blog

January 17, 2012

Adam Rothstein here, in DC for Occupy Congress, and reporting on our live blog. No media van this trip, but we’ve got hotspots! Also be sure to check @PDXoccupier for live updates, and check in with our Livestream team. Also, DC media is running their own livestream page, at www.j17live.org. Their main Twitter account is @occupyKst.

12:00 AM – If you couldn’t already tell, we’ve stopped live blogging for the night. The Occupiers were trailing home for the night, and we did as well. Check in with The Occupier tomorrow, as we’ll have some more reporting from DC before we head back to the glorious Northwest.

8:44 PM – Looks like things are pretty much over here in front of the White House. If the police are going to clear the streets, they won’t have to wait long for the job to do itself. We’re going to head back to the Capitol. We’ll report again from there once we see what’s happening.

8:36 PM – Police are massing… kind of… on the West side of the crowd on Pennsylvania here. They might be planning to clear the street soon. Doesn’t look like there will be much resistance when they do, as there are only about two hundred people left in front of the White House.

8:32 PM – Facilitators are trying to convince people to go back to the Capitol, luring them with pizza and water. However, many people want to stay, leading to a trickle of folks heading back, and the crowd dwindling. This means most people will probably walk back alone, on the sidewalks, which isn’t the best plan, probably. Without a set march plan or convincing facilitators, it’s better to wait for consensus to dictate the flow.

8:26 PM – Rumors of riot police, but the vans that have been pointed out as possibly containing them are a little small… and few. Again, many of the people here seem to be new to such a large march. You don’t realize how learned you are about police tactics from experience, until confronted with a bit of inexperience. I’m glad we could all turn out and help folks get acquainted with the idea, and maybe learn a little something. Rumors are natural to any protest, and only experience and good information counter that.

However, I will say that there are a large number of police cars lined up on the North side of what I believe is Lafayette Square, but there are very few police on this side by the White House fence.

8:12 PM – Reports from Twitter that someone threw a smoke bomb over the fence. I didn’t see much smoke, but it was enough to start a tear gas rumor pretty quickly. Obviously smelled like a firework, though. Here’s some photos of the crowd rallying by the White House fence.

8:00 PM – Outside the White House. Crowd stops to chant. Here’s a video of the march passing the encampment at Freedom Plaza a little while earlier.

7:54 PM – Turning West again. I’m hearing many people from DC say this is the biggest march they’ve ever seen. It’s about the size of the Portland protest against police brutality, if you attended that. In other words, a medium-sized Portland march. The DC folks are giddy with it–seeing a bit of light graffiti as the more adventurous folks feel the safety of their numbers. Its odd seeing that sort of behavior that we got over in our first week or so. Not to say that DC is immature–just that the size of an Occupation definitely affects its developmental growth, and is a major part of its makeup. In a sense, Portland was perhaps forced to mature too fast–thrust into serious issues of population, when it should have been having more fun.

7:47 PM – At the beginning of the White House complex, we’re turning North on 15th. Maybe we were on Pennsylvania this whole time? I don’t know, I’m not from around here. I trust that someone knows where we are going. :)

7:41 PM – Stopping by Freedom Plaza. Many people running up to stand on the stone edge of the park that is elevated. March is generally continuing straight on Constitution. Perhaps we really are going all the way to the White House.

7:35 PM – Stopped in front of the Justice Center. Sorry the pictures are a little blurry, I’m typing with one hand and shooting photos with the other.

7:23 PM – In front of the Newseum, looking at the large inscription of the First Amendment. No Mainstream Media in attendance.

7:19 PM – There are a few bikes, but they are scattered in with the protest. We need a Bike Swarm up in here! Protest continuing on Constitution. “How do you fix the deficit? End the war and tax the rich!”

7:15 PM – Protest is now heading West on Constitution. The front of the march is slowing down to wait for stragglers. Now that I can see the whole march, I can get a better estimate of numbers. I’d say around 2000. Also, update on the Supreme Court steps–apparently there were two arrests, though no one is sure why.

6:58 PM – Protesters have taken the steps of the Supreme Court. A protester commented to me, that he’s never seen a protest allowed on the steps before. All protests are stopped at the sidewalk, and forced to stay in the street. “Money–is–not–Free Speech.” The next stop, chants the protesters, is the White House.

6:51 PM – Protesters passing the Capitol, heading East. Protesters are up on the stairs of one of the government office buildings to the North.

6:43 PM – Several thousand taking the streets, North side of the Capitol. Cops watching, as we enter the streets. March stretching for several of DC’s long blocks, and it’s not even fully out of the park.

6:38 PM – The crowd was itching to march, and critical mass got it going. Where will we stop? Who knows! The chant is “whose streets, our streets!”

6:30 PM – People are forming up for the march. Speakers on the microphone, and the LEDs are coming out. I’ve got my own red-eye headlamp on, so I can see my keyboard. By the way, someone needs to develop a way to type while walking. Just throwing that out there.

6:11 PM – Back at the lawn, ODB is on the speakers, and the march is now going to meet at the stage at 6:30 to depart for… destination remains to be seen. Actually, the march is going to the Whitehouse. Or so one fellow says.

5:39 PM – Batteries charged, food eaten, we are going back to the Capitol lawn, where reports indicate the protests have returned, after taking to the streets for at least a period of time.

4:44 PM – We are taking a break for food and water and batteries, but will be back in time for the rally at 6 PM.

3:53 PM – More police have arrived, pushing protesters away from the street and up the stairs of the building. Here’s a video from before, probably about 3:35 PM:

3:45 PM – Banners draped off of the staircase over the House Offices were taken down by police. They have pushed the protesters back onto the stairs.

3:40 PM – The marches to the offices have taken off. Now in front of the House Offices building just South of the Capitol. Protesters are massed on the steps, and keep taking the street, before being pushed back onto the sidewalk. Motorcycle police came up fast, after it was clear that the two officers there wouldn’t be able to convince people to stay out of the road. Numerous plain clothes officers broke cover, and starting taking crowd control positions.

2:35 PM – Ideas raised at the GA: Workplace direct democracy, community gardening, radio stations, inter-occupy web sites and social networks, soup kitchens and social service outreach, setting up routes for traveling between occupations, using art and music for outreach, canvassing, more national calls to action, working groups to make sure that suggested plans are actually enacted. All sound good to me, especially that last one.

A long list of protest events was read off, starting with Occupy the Courts on the 20th, and going all the way through summer.

2:34 PM – Here’s a video clip from the wall stand-off.

2:26 PM – GA is re-starting. The protesters in the stand off by the wall are now being allowed to sit on the wall, but not to put their feet on the path. Never under estimate the willingness of Occupiers to tenaciously defend any small point, no matter how small. Though, this is how we’ve gotten to this point: things have been taken from us, consistently, bit by tiny bit.

2:19 PM – The sun is out. GA is meeting back up, in getting ready to move to the Congressional Office Buildings.

2:03 PM – Sitting in on a breakout group about Networking. Most of the ideas being proposed I have heard before, either in passing or being worked on by people at Occupy Portland. It seems like most people are on the same page for where they think the Occupy movement is headed: co-op businesses, indoor workspace, new tech applications for collaborating on media. Also continuing what we are doing here: more traveling groups to have people meet face to face. This seems to be a continuation of the strange sort of group-consciousness that the Occupy movement has displayed so far: we don’t necessarily plan together on everything, but because the evolution is happening organically as we all experiment together and learn from each other, there is a solidarity of motion. An evolutionary vector is present, and we’re all looking ahead.

1:45 PM – Just watched a back-and-forth between protesters and police on the pathway diving the acceptable areas of the grass for public use. Portland protesters were in the foreground, but it certainly wasn’t all Portland folks. Police were pushing people back when they stood on the wall, and also attempting arrest them when they sat on the wall and put their feet on the path. Protesters locked arms, and pulled their fellows back to safety. It appears the police leadership were trying to keep the officers from getting too aggressive: one commanding officer pulled back an officer that was getting frustrated and hot. Other protesters weren’t sure of the efficacy of this action of fighting over the pathway. In fifteen minutes, the protesters are going to be heading over to the Congressional Office Buildings for “aggressive lobbying”, so it will be seen who is more willing to engage in civil disobedience for that particular cause, as opposed to yet another piece of park. (Video clip of the above scene to come.)

1:27 PM – The GA is breaking out into discussion groups, which is the main agenda point of the GA, since everyone is meeting for the first time.

1:16 PM – The protesters are singing “Solidarity Forever”.

1:13 PM – The officers have pulled back up the path, and seem to be letting the protester onto the other side of the path, on the “wrong” side.

1:10 PM – Livestreamers are reciting the names of those being arrested, along with badge numbers of arresting officers. There’s a very strong programmatic emphasis on doing this here. The word is, those being arrested are guilty of nothing other than being on the wrong side of the grass, per the permit. However, beyond them, joggers and other tourists are passing with impunity.

1:06 PM – Arresting being made. One at a time, not easy to see if the people in the “naughty” area of the lawn are being mass arrested, or if these are only a few outliers.

1:02 PM – While the GA is going on, there is a group of people in the “do not walk” area of the lawn, that are being surrounded by police. Most of the crowd has abandoned the GA, and is watching from the “walk” area of the lawn.

12:51 PM – Announcements going on right now. At 2PM, people are going to the Congressional Office buildings, breaking up between them according to their districts.

12:34 PM – The circle is coming closer, so that people can hear better. Double mic-check employed, and it seems to be working better.

photo by Adam

12:27 PM – The GA is forming up. The coasts are forming on either hemisphere of a large circle, with the midlands on either side. Walking around the circle is an awe-inspiring thing. “Where’s Occupy Texas? Occupy Alabama!” New York City gets together simply by chanting, “All Day, All Week, Occupy Wall Street!”

photo by Adam

12:12 PM – The number of livestream-style cameras and monopoles outnumbers the amount of protest signs out here on the lawn. It’s a new age of protest. Is it more useful to display a message, or to record one? Perhaps time will tell. Until then, we keep the record button depressed, and the wireless connected.

12:07 PM – Music has started. The crowd is up against the stone wall separating the lawn from the steps of the Capitol. Motorcycle Cops are arriving at the bottom of the steps now.

11:55 AM – It seems the Annual Mayors’ Conference is in DC, at the Capitol Hilton, from today through the 20th. Mayor Adams is there. Wish he would come and say hello. Maybe we should try and visit him?

11:52 AM – Folks from Oklahoma and Orlando are here. Sun finally coming out of the clouds, just a bit. GA starts at the bottom of the hill, closer to the pool, in six minutes.

11:33 AM – Probably around 2000 people here right now. Wish we could have brought all of Portland with us! But this is a big country, and that is a strange reality of the distributed-unity of this movement. I’m seeing people walking around with signs identifying themselves from Roanoke, from New York, from Texas. People have come, not necessarily with their entire occupation, or even more than a carload. But they’ve come. If my feelings are at all reflected in the group, it’s that we’re all expectant. We are sizing everything up. No one is expecting a hundred-thousand people on this lawn, but they want to see those that do show up. A mirror-moment for Occupy, perhaps. We’ve read plenty on the Internet, and watched the Livestreams, but now we are looking into each others’ faces.

11:13 AM – The all-Occupy GA, aka the Voltron GA, starts at noon. Until then, folks are milling around, meeting each other. Just ran into Collin, of our Livestreamers. I’m right near the food table currently. There are many of the usual Occupy tables. Food is calling out for donations, and serving utensils. They also are asking for volunteers, but it is not so dire.

11:06 AM – Met some folks from Occupation Nation, a group started in Raleigh, NC that is planning on hiking across the country, and ending in Portland. Personally, I’m hoping to meet as many folks from other Occupations as possible. It’s great to meet Occupiers in person. The web is great, but you can’t beat face to face connections.

10:50 AM – We just arrived, after having to walk all the way around to the one entrance that is open for people to walk onto the West lawn of the Capitol. Just as we were arriving, one arrest was already in process. William Griffith, of Knoxville, Tennessee, was accidentally on the wrong side of the barricade, trying to get onto the right side, and was arrested. His picture is below.

photo by Adam

Other than that bit of excitement, the numbers are growing here on the West Lawn, though reports indicate that many people are still at Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square. The mood here is fairly elevated, perhaps from the arrest that already occurred, but also from the fact of the fences, that were quite antagonistic, penning everyone in without an exit behind two lines of chain-linked plastic. The fences are coming down now, largely aided by the protesters, and it is unclear if the police will attempt to enact another line.

photo by Adam

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