Occupy D.C. – An ISR Report

Occupy D.C. and allied but separate protest group October 2011 continue their modest presence as the month winds down. A comparison to the vastly larger and more dynamic OWS event is inescapable. One can’t see Princeton professors trying to get stunt arrested here. Or Naomi Wolf. Not necessarily a bad thing, of course.

Oh wait. Cornell West was arrested outside the Supreme Court (?) last week.

There are 20 tents or so, adorned with colorful banners. The organizers have good organization, ranging from an eclectic library to kitchens and a media savvy information table. The library carried every thing from Nation style readings to Foreign Affairs. Signs along the park’s railing convey the OWS messages as well as locally tailored banners such as ‘K Street workers support Occupy.’

Although Obama and Congress are directly complicit in many of the Occupy issues, protesting in Washington, D.C can’t seem to galvanize the broad segments of the population seen in the City. The region’s still palpable affluence might have something to do with that. Occupy D.C., OWS, Plutocracy, Protest

As with all the Occupy presences, ‘General Assemblies’ are called at specific times to shepherd all the cats. Absent a specific program or assembly the D.C. Occupy can appear more like an empty KOA campground. Stuff’s still going on. There’s apparently a growing strain between Occupy D.C. and the separate October 2011 group.

According to one report to the Stiftung, some members of Occupy D.C. want to cease collaboration. There are apparent differences in strategies and tactics. In one sense, tensions do not bode well for the overall OWS-type effort in D.C. On the other hand, managing one ad hoc ‘occupy’ presence is tricky enough for anyone, let along coordinating with others. The two groups are about 6 blocks apart: Occupy D.C. maintains its tents in a park along K Street, October 2011 camps out along Pennsylvania Ave.

We made the walk from K Street to the October 2011 space enjoying the nice Fall air. D.C. unsurprisingly deserted on a Sunday except for a smattering of tourists in front of the White House. We came upon the October 2011 site not sure what to expect. Occupy D.C., October 2011, Plutocracy, Congress, Protest From our last visit, the presence is smaller and more compact. There are fewer tents. The nice woman at the information desk wanted to give the Stiftung a pocket version of the Constitution (we didn’t point out the irony that Addington used to carry one around in his suit pocket like a talisman). We thought our visit would be brief.

As we headed back we noticed a large fluttering Constitution in the wind, signed by various supporters. Organizers laid out chairs and we were told 4 of the Tahrir Square organizers would speak. Curious, we sat down to watch. A crowd of maybe 75 gathered. As before, 20 of them were outside photographers or tourists snapping a final D.C. memory. Several of the photographers were quite fetching fashionistas, decked with color coordinated accessories, wielding expensive SLRs. Small talk among the mixed demographic (mostly Caucasian, with a high percentage of silver hair) ranged from effective protests to wondering how many police provocateurs and infiltrators were among them. All very SDS circa 1969.

The Egyptians arrived and introduced as 4 people nominated for the Nobel Prize for their pioneering work at Tahrir. Tahrir Square, Occupy DC, October 2011, Protest Unfortunately, they didn’t bomb someone or authorize assassinations so they missed the final nod. Equally unfortunate, they made no presentation but simply took questions from the audience. One representative question was “Did your work at Tahrir elevate your human consciousness, and if so, what can you tell us?” Others were more practical, such as did “Tahrir form committees and write documents?” In fairness, several questions were good: about SCAF (Supreme Command Armed Forces) in Egypt, impact of Khadaffi’s death on the Arab Spring, Sharia and the new Constitution, etc. We felt bad for them.

One of the October 2011 organizers announced D.C. police seeks to revoke their permit. Having kitchens and tents are the apparent grounds. An endemic problem for October 2011 since it started.

OWS’ premise is to be bottom-driven, ad hoc and diverse. Still, we suspect the Occupy DC movement would benefit from a consolidation.


  1. DrLeoStrauss says

    @jwb You’re right about the issue being an important microcosm. And also about the current irony re the security team.

  2. jwb says

    @DrLeoStrauss I’ve been following the drum circle issue fairly closely, because to me it’s a little microcosm of OWS: if the consensus governance can’t handle balancing the competing interests in an issue like this, what hope does it really have for anything more substantive. So far the results are very mixed. They’ve actually not had a huge problem getting consensus on the issue; but they have had a big problem in enforcing the consensus, since many of the drummers don’t like it and have simply chosen to ignore it. Then, too, some of the drummers apparently have refused to recognize the authority of OWS. All of it has made for a mess, and when I checked yesterday they were organizing a security team to police the drumming. Quite the irony.

  3. DrLeoStrauss says

    Looks like OWS is beginning to show growing pains as its distributed decision-making is put to the test.

    NY mag has a good rundown of the tensions and an apparent fist fight.


    Apparently the drumming is causing problems for OWS. Some OWS want the drums to cease as do surrounding neighborhoods.

    If you’ve visited an Occupy site, chances are you’ve seen the drum circles that play repeating percussive beats. Seemed festive and energetic during brief visits. Didn’t think about it for those there 24-7.

  4. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Watching Amy Goodman discussing OWS on Charlie Rose a mixture of clinical detachment and observation and Goodman’s enthusiasm and optimism for OWS. We wish the OWS encampments were represented by people who were not themselves immersed in the ‘protestor’ mythos.

    Name dropping celebrities who’ve been arrested seems less useful than explaining who’s there, what they’ve accomplished and needs such as food, medicine, supplies — i.e. logistics for the winter. Trendiness like stunt celebrity arrests fades over time. The structural political realities which summoned OWS into being endure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


CommentLuv badge