"The First Amendment right to gather news is, as the Court has often noted, not one that inures solely to the benefit of the news media; rather, the public's right of access to information is coextensive with that of the press."
- United States Court of Appeals For the First Circuit, August 26, 2011
I spent a day in Freedom Plaza, a triangle of concrete adjacent to several high-end hotels with shiny black Mercedes limos out front three blocks from the White House. It's Washington DC's entry in the Occupy America phenomenon.
I came wearing two hats. One, I'm a Vietnam veteran member of Veterans For Peace who has actively worked for over a decade against our bankrupting wars. And, two, I'm an experienced journalist with a master's degree who works in both images and words. I won't take a back seat to anyone in what is known as the Main Stream Media.
The crowd of maybe 700 people occupying Freedom Plaza was fired up. The focus of the occupation was on the wars and the "one percenters" at the top of the economic heap in America who control our lives more and more as they pursue more and more "free market" profiteering.
This monster of greed has always existed in history, but this latest binge was unleashed by a hack Hollywood actor who became President of the United States 30 years ago. Everything has been deregulated and the ruthless financial reapings by this class led to a progression of bursting bubbles, an economic meltdown and a subsequent tax-payer bubble in the form of massive bailouts.
We all know the story by now. We know who got bailed out and who ended up holding the bag and losing their homes, people like Andrea Agizi, a single mother from Atlantic City I ran into in Freedom Plaza. Up until the recent wave of "occupations" across America, those who ended up paying for this free-market extravaganza were silenced and marginalized.
The slick financial wizards who sliced and diced Andrea's mortgage for profit all worship the "free market." They tend to be very liberal with those profits when it comes to financing political candidates who, once in office, lower their taxes even further. But, a funny thing, when these free marketeers saw the baroque free market investment machine they'd created swirling in circles down the toilet -- a money-making machine that had been fully endorsed and shilled for by the libertarian oracle at Delphi Alan Greenspan -- they turned into flaming socialists with all our tax dollars. After all, the nation didn't want finance pirates jumping out of windows.
We're living in the endgame of a huge Ponzi scam. Though they're financed by billionaires like the Koch Brothers, even members of the right wing Tea Party recognize this top-heavy scam. All working people know it in their bones, and that even includes many of your average, working stiff police officers, the man and woman on the front line ordered by those on top to control the angry victims of this multi-decade Ponzi scam.
There's the sense suddenly that people have had enough, that things have gotten to the point people have little more to lose. If they're not on the street they know why those on the street are there. The sense of bipartisan corruption is so profound that even the most conservative and cautious of citizens can no longer say there's nothing wrong with the system. It's staring all of us in the face.
On the plaza, I networked with friends and allies and, then, listened to David Rovics, singer songwriter from Portland, Oregon, sing metaphorically of bullies in the schoolyard and about the vegetable vender in Tunisia so fed up with a corrupt system he set himself on fire and set off a conflagration now called the Arab Spring movement.
Marching past the White House by Grant
After that, hundreds of angry occupiers ventured from the Plaza and marched to the national headquarters building of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a notorious lobby and defender of corporations and free-market plunderers. The faÃ§ade of the building featured huge letters that spelled out JOBS. This was a major focus of the demonstrators, since as a cathedral devoted to worship of a fictional free-market, jobs was not a priority for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce unless they somehow contributed to lining the portfolios of men in $2,000 suits.
At the US Chamber of Commerce by Grant
Meanwhile, making things even more interesting, a tall and lanky raving lunatic with a megaphone persisted on wandering through the crowd screaming "Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!", annoying everyone except some of the cops nearby directing traffic, who could not restrain themselves from chuckling. They seemed glad they weren't the only ones that day struggling to remain cool-headed in the face of opposition.
There's always a circus atmosphere about street demonstrations, since they are by definition rude. No matter how you squeeze it, a street demonstration is not a venue for nuanced argument. People are fed up and angry, and they want to publicly express that anger.