Enjoying the lovely weather
of yesterday in Washington, I went out to go see some of the Occupy D.C. protestors who were planted downtown in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Tents were set up
in Freedom Plaza, not too far from the White House, and an eclectic group of people held varying signs while people took turns speaking atop a stage set up in the far side of the plaza. Of late the Occupiers in town had gone about protesting at all sorts of various things--the World Bank, the Federal Reserve, K Street lobbying and non-profit organizations, the Treasury Department, the White House, the Chamber of Commerce, etc. They even laid siege to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, leading museum security guards to employ the use of pepper spray
after one of them was rushed by a group of protesters (no doubt giving the museum guards one of the most exciting days of their careers). Startling absence of protests on Capitol Hill though; not quite sure why Congress is currently being spared. (Update--Word is that OccupyDC and the AFL-CIO will be protesting Congress on Tuesday now).
What struck me most about my visit was how exceedingly unorganized they were--and a different type of unorganized than the Tea Party. The Tea Party was successful in large part because, though decentralized and lacking any sort of leadership, it still maintained a general message and goal: stop President Obama's healthcare law and reign in the size and spending of government. Thus, while there was often a lot of variety among Tea Party crowds and disagreement over how far it was appropriate to shrink government and how to accomplish that, there was nonetheless a sort of unifying message. I saw no such thing among the Occupy D.C. group, save for them wanting to send the message that they are currently unhappy with the way of things today.
Most complaints were focused on the stale economy and our continuing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, and the other countries that we are routinely bombing people in. While open socialists and hippies (for lack of a better word) did seem to make up the more visible bits of the group, there was also a mixture of other types--libertarians railing against the Federal Reserve and the War on Terror, unemployed people from out of town expressing their frustration with the job market, peace activists, even a few Tea Partiers, and a handful of not-volunteers
. Some of them were normal people just frustrated with things, some of them were young people who just think it's cool to go out and yell about things and pretend like they're making a difference, some people were crazy people. It was just a conglomeration of people venting whatever they felt like venting, and I do commiserate with some of them. I understand the frustration with the economy; there are people very close to me who are unemployed and near-homeless despite years-long efforts to avoid such a sad state. But blocking traffic in the streets and camping out on public land to get out incoherent and angry messages it not the way to resolve this situation.
Due to this lack of a central message and the general chaos associated with these rather rambunctious gatherings, I think that this "Occupy" movement will burn itself out rather than go on to the type of electoral success that the Tea Party had last election. The Taste of D.C. Food Festival, taking place on the street just beside occupied Freedom Plaza (pure coincidence, no doubt), ends today, and the weather is going to start getting colder soon. Judging from the looks of some of these people, they won't be out yelling once it gets uncomfortably cold. After all, it's hard to text or tweet on an iPhone when you have to wear mittens (though I'm sure that the market has noticed this demand and is already working to invent a way to solve that problem if it has not already done so).
The group in D.C. in particular does seem to find one common denominator: they are angry that the banks got bailed out. Of course anger at the bank bailouts has been a staple of the Tea Party for two years, but who's paying attention? Overall, Reason TV's ever-clever Remy Munasifi has the best description yet
of the protests. Enjoy.