Category: Jacob's Blog
Published on Sunday, 02 October 2011 05:01
Occupy DC Protest October 1, 2011 – Day One
I arrived at McPherson Square just after 12 noon to take part in the Occupy DC protest. I'm standing in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and all the other nationwide protests beginning to take place. I never thought We'd actually see President Barack Obama, but we did! More on that in a little bit...
It was a very chilly 50-55 degrees with light rain showers off and on, which likely dampened the turnout of protesters and activists. But several dozen diehard folks refused to let bad weather suppress their voices of discontent. At the peak of the turnout, my best guess would be that there was 50 to 75 people. I spent the first of couple hours speaking with protesters on K street (K Street in NW DC is the epicenter of lobbying firms, and just two blocks from the White House) who were holding up signs, waving, and interacting with traffic. They were getting lots of honks from passing cars, and positive feedback from pedestrians. You can listen to all of those interviews and audio from the protest on the FFR audio page.
Most of the protesters, probably 75 % on them, were in their 20's-30's. Some were carrying signs saying “Honk if you have student debt,” which most of the people that I spoke with did in fact have.
The overall atmosphere was very positive, respectful, and courteous. Everyone was cooperative with all laws. There were no police to be found for a majority of the day. Until a little after 5pm when we began to see a few police cars stationed at all four corners of McPherson Square, the site of the protest. I wasn't paying close attention to the time as I was speaking with other fellow activists, but it was just beginning to get dark, my best guess is around 7pm. When all of a sudden we began to hear police sirens, lots of sirens. Within a matter of seconds, several dozen police cars, all with lights flashing, had the entire park surrounded. I knew something was up.
I was looking around trying to see why all these police suddenly showed up out of nowhere. There was no sign of a traffic accident, no sign of an emergency, and no reason for tons of police. Then I began to start to see motorcycle police, one after another, in single file coming up 15thSt NW crossing I St and heading towards K St. I had this deep gut feeling something was about to happen. I grabbed one of the signs from our pile, it read “Corporations Are Not People,” and began running to the corner of 15th and I St, while shouting to all of the activists to grab a sign because something was happening.
Police cars lined all the surrounding streets, several traffic police on foot were standing in the intersections. The nearest officer on foot noticed all of us bunching up on the sidewalk and came towards us, blowing his whistle and demanding that we all step back from the street. We all obeyed the orders. Then, at that exact moment, we realized from all the black SUV's with tinted windows, that it was the Presidential motorcade. One protester shouted, “It's Obama! Obama is here!” Literally right on cue there it was: President Obama's new armor-plated Cadillac Limousine known to insiders as “Beast.” And for the first time in my life, I saw the President of the United States with my own eyes.
I was speechless, almost in a mild shock. There he was. The man we'd been trying to reach with our message. Everything was moving in slow motion for me. In real time he was there for no more than two seconds. I saw him turn and look at us. I just stared numbingly, while others around me began to cheer enthusiastically. It was a truly amazing moment. Unfortunately, I didn't think to turn my audio recorder back on until the motorcade was already out of view. Afterwords, we all chatted about our experience with a strong sense of joy and excitement.
An hour later, we were gathered near the south end of the park under some large trees to help shield the rain. As we were talking and sharing our feelings, Obama's motorcade made another pass. This time he was traveling in the opposite direction, towards the White House, down the very same one-way street. I continued to sit under the trees, not rushing to the street like most of the other protesters. It was a very satisfying feeling to know that we might have actually brought some direct awareness to the leader of the free world. To me it really felt like we had a voice, and that our voice was heard, even if it was only for a few fleeting seconds.
Overall, it was quite a surreal experience, to be standing a mere 20 feet from The President, even if it was just for a second. The White House was two blocks away and he drove past us en route to and from his speech at the Human Rights Campaign dinner. Hell, he probably didn’t even know about the protest. Nevertheless, I know for a fact that, he saw us and we saw him.
This is just the start of citizens making their voices heard. In time, he will know who we are and what we are trying to do. But for now, I'm satisfied in knowing that his motorcade unexpectedly drove past our protest.