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Occupy DC Kicks Off | The Nation

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George Zornick

George Zornick

Action and dysfunction in the Beltway swamp. E-mail tips to george@thenation.com

Occupy DC Kicks Off

The day of action kicked off this morning on in front of the Capitol building, where an admittedly paltry number of protesters gathered in light rain. At the moment—around 11 am EST—the Occupiers have splintered off to conduct teach-ins on issues Congress won’t confront and to visit with members.

At noon, there will be what organizers are billing as “the largest national general assembly yet in the American Occupy movement.” You can watch a livestream here.

More teach-ins will continue throughout the afternoon, and the day culminates at 6 pm with an Occupy DC rally and protest, along with a silent vigil for DC voting rights. You can follow my twitter here for some updates and pictures.

There are also some interesting corollary protests going on in Washington today—this morning I attended an anti–death penalty rally in front of the Supreme Court. The crowd was once again sparse, to say the least, but surely motivated—about fifteen demonstrators unfurled a large banner reading “Stop Executions” on the upper steps of the building, and refused to move. They were arrested by the Supreme Court’s police force.

UPDATE: The General Assembly began not long after noon, with many hundreds more Occupiers joining the group from this morning, and pushing the total number up over 400.

The Occupiers huddled in state and city-based groups, and I saw congregations from as far as Texas, Phoenix, Atlanta and North Carolina. Unfortunately, after only about five minutes of proceedings, a minor conflagration with Capitol Police about 50 yards away suddenly became a major object of attention, and easily half of the General Assembly fled to observe and participate.

Retired Philadelphia Police Captain Ray Lewis, a mainstay at Occupy events, arrived in what appeared to be his Philadelphia police uniform. Capitol Police stopped him, and seemed to have a problem with Lewis entering the protest as a uniformed officer. Occupiers immediately noticed the detention, and a few mic-checks later hundreds of people fled the Assembly and surrounded the Capitol Police and Lewis.

Lewis was ultimately freed by the police, but the Occupiers who came over were determined to keep up the confrontation. Capitol Police were not allowing anyone to block a sidewalk that led away from the Capitol building, so naturally the Occupiers were determined to stand on it. I saw two protestors arrested after charging onto the sidewalk and towards police directly, and many others streaked back and forth across the sidewalk when officers were looking the other way.

The standoff is continuing now, and the Assembly bled away at least a couple hundred attendees to the “battle.” We’ll keep you posted throughout the day.  

(Photo by Loren Fogel / The Nation)

UPDATE 2: Occupy D.C. sends over this video from Senator Carl Levin's office this afternoon, where protestors--including another Occupy celebrity, Sgt. Shamar Thomas--stage a mock-arrest of the Senator for his sponsorship of the National Defense Authorization Act. Protestors enter the office, but then are deemed "terrorists" by a protestor pretending to be Levin, and face indefinite detention until Thomas saves the day:

 So, an interesting day to be a staffer on Capitol Hill, to say the least--as Levin's flustered press people could surely attest. 

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