The Barnyard Standoff
My first encounter with Occupy DC was about a month ago when a group of protesters bought papers from me. I periodically went to their encampment because I was curious about the movement. I got to know many of the protesters and even spoke at one of their rallies. Although I sympathized with their cause, I wasn’t aligned with the movement.
Even though I wasn’t active, I saw many did good work. Volunteers supplied food and clothing. Group assemblies discussed strategies and topics affecting the nation. I was impressed by how some of the homeless people I regarded as low-lifes transformed themselves into activists.
However, not all was well. I befriended a few who were becoming disillusioned about the movement’s ultimate goals. Women would come to me and tell me they felt uncomfortable camping out because men constantly tried to grope them. Many with whom I talked have returned home or moved on to other encampments in other cities.
I also saw some established protesters become annoyed with youths who were more interested in stirring up anarchy and revolution than in protesting corporate greed. I also watched the news and saw the events around the country, the growing unrest between the police and protesters. I was appalled at the brutality in some cities, such as Oakland and New York City. And I went on watching our own local occupation with interest. After selling my newspapers I found myself going to the park frequently. Over the weeks of the occupation, I watched the movement’s complexion gradually become younger. I also noticed that rather than living in the park, some of the most vocal protesters would leave when it became dark . The General Assembly meetings became more about chaotic and unfocused. As time went on, many of the protesters conversations seemed incoherent and irrational. I began to distance myself from many of the Occupiers.
Because Occupy is an inclusive movement dealing with troublemakers has remained a challenge. However, at McPherson Square the protesters’ de-escalation team has been able to temper hostile participants,. But on Sunday tensions culminated when protesters clashed with the police after building a wooden structure in the park . The structure was deemed unsafe and a violation of the District’s building code. The police warned the protesters that if they didn’t take the structure down they would be arrested. The demonstrators refused, so the police began arresting the defiant ones.
The standoff was not a coordinated movement by all the protesters; it was a few rogue hoodlums who decided to break the law. Their actions were insensitive and cowardly. Worse, what really pissed me off was that these people were not the face of the movement.
I commend the police for using restraint because many were antagonizing and provoking them. I condemn the protesters for not providing a voice of reason to prevent a potentially tragic ending.
Apparently the rogue Occupiers have not learned that you don’t endear people to your cause by being defiant and rabble-rousing. Eventually, that becomes old and tired.