News from Occupy DC: "We've Got a Broken System!"
I was warmly received by some cold people wearing at least two layers of clothing this morning at Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC.
Yes, both encampments are still there--the one at McPherson Square persists and the two groups are trying to settle differences and work together better, but their main concern right now is surviving the DC winter, which seems mild to those with homes. I reminded them of "normal" winters here, but consolation was minimal. They were still cold. Thirty or forty strong souls are still at it, waiting for spring to come, which will add more people and allow for more activity.
The rules have become oppressive: no sleeping allowed, all personal possessions must be worn on the person, no cooking, no blankets, and so on. They need donations of food, medicine, tents, winter outerwear, money, and places to sleep, wash their clothing and themselves, and so on. They have received a rating of 100 percent from the Department of health, I was told. And the rats have always occupied DC. They didn't appear out of nowhere to join the Occupiers, but their presence at McPherson has been jokingly referred to, by the Washington Post, I believe, as a rats' conference.
Gonzo, the embedded journalist
I spoke mainly to the "embedded press," "Gonzo," a thirty-two-year-old man who spent some time in college studying journalism but couldn't graduate because he "couldn't do math." He has a website at Gonzotimes.com and writes it as Peace Loves Spray Paint, he told me. He plans to run against the unpopular Vincent Gray for mayor, as an Independent who will use his real name at that point. He'll have to. He'll get more votes that way. He has just been hired by Greenpeace and will begin work soon. Bravo, Gonzo!
The job will finance a place to live. The Oklahoman has bounced from one low-paying job to another and plans to stay here, where the action is, even if it's Capitol Hill.
He said that other Occupy locations persist in small towns in Oklahoma and Florida. Here the homeless have decided to support the groups more actively.
The age of Occupiers ranges from very young to old. There are a few Vietnam veterans among them. Twenty percent of vets in this country are homeless, said Gonzo.
Political support has been meagre. A few candidates for Congress have stopped by but none of the present ones, not even Kucinich, though vocal support has come from Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders and a few others, including Ron Paul, Gonzo told me. The one act in Congress concerning Occupy DC has been the vote to kick them out.
"We're fighting for everyone," he said. Draped in an American flag, he walks the streets talking to people about Gray and Occupy. Reception is favorable. Occupiers can't act together; "autonomous action" is the policy. All are on their own.
"A call of solidarity is needed," continued my informer. The People must get back into government. "We know we can stick it out."
I asked him for precedents and he cited the Bonus Army, seventeen thousand World War I veterans along with twenty-six thousand others, who joined forces to demand cash redemption of certificates that weren't scheduled to mature until 1945. The year was 1932, during the Great Depression. Lasting a few months, the march was ultimately unsuccessful. In 1936, FDR vetoed a measure in Congress aspiring to pay these heroes early.
Then there is the persistance at Tahrir Square, another inspiration.
This ragtag militia fighting nonviolently on behalf of most of us needs a few things in return for their hard work. We all have a bit of time and a bit of help to donate. Let's do it.
Children's shoes refer us to the future and what Occupy is about.
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