Activists from the Washington, DC, chapter of the Occupy movement have planned a series of events for today to mark the first anniversary of the protests. Protesters say they plan to “shut down K Street” and disrupt traffic during two marches starting from Farragut Park, and branching off in order to “confuse and overwhelm police,” according to the AP.
The protest kicked off to a lively start with activists storming multiple buildings, according to participants who were live-tweeting events.
“#OccupyDC has just stormed into the office of Cargill,” Occupy activist Jeff Rae tweeted, adding later that he witnessed lobbyists “scramble to lock their doors.”
“#OccupyDC just stormed ANOTHER building,” Rae tweeted thirty-seven minutes later.
Washington Post contributor Annie Gowen also witnessed the storming of a building.
“Occupiers try to push into lobby of JBG large developer in DC chanting ‘House is a human right,’” Gowen tweeted.
On its website, the group states that it wants the first anniversary of Occupy DC to be a moment to “celebrate and commemorate.” It continues:
We’re no longer occupying K Street, but the war hawks, debt profiteers, bailout pirates and other corporate-government door revolvers continue to use it as their base from which to occupy much of the planet. These agencies, lobbyist firms, and assorted multinationals are collectively responsible for both exploiting and drowning out the voices of the global 99%, forcing governments around the world to adopt policies that starve the common person and enrich the elite. As the concurrent global uprisings of the past year demonstrate, popular patience wears thin for these profit-hungry puppet-masters and their government enforcers.
Protests began over the weekend when a small group of activists demonstrated outside Bank of America branches in the district in order to call attention to the foreclosure epidemic.
One of those facing the loss of his home is the Reverend Robert Michael Vanzant, who spoke to WAMU Radio about being forced to stop working after suffering a mild stroke in 2008.
“I would love to keep my home,” says the reverend. “I’ve lived there for 24 years.” Vanzant, who is also a former Metro employee, fell behind on his mortgage payments after a mild stroke caused him to stop working in 2008.
Protestor Mike Haacks hopes the demonstration will get more people to speak out against bank practices he calls unfair: The banks have been bailed out, but yet they’re still evicting people,” he says. “For example, they haven’t responded to Reverend Vanzant after two years of him reaching out them.”
Occupy DC protesters lived in tents in McPherson Square for about four months before US Park Police raided the camp and enforced a ban on camping.
In other mass eviction news, a Cook County judge declared the mass arrests of Occupy Chicago demonstrators that city leaders praised as a “model for respecting protesters’ rights” were unconstitutional.
The city had singled out Occupy demonstrators for breaking curfew at parks on two consecutive weekends in October 2011, but the Chicago Tribune points out no arrests were made when 500,000 people stayed past curfew during the 2008 election night rally for President Obama.
This selective enforcement of the curfew is what led Associate Judge Thomas M. Donnelly to find “the city intended to discriminate against defendants based on their views.”
Donnelly immediately threw out the arrests of ninety-two Occupy protesters on charges related to violating the curfew, but as the Tribune reports, the judge then went a step further by adding the city is “violating the public’s right to free assembly under the state and US constitutions by restricting late-night access to Chicago’s most famous lakefront park.”
Noting the park’s long history of political rallies going back to Abraham Lincoln, the judge quoted early city leaders who resolved in 1835 that the land that would become Grant Park “should be reserved for all time to come for a public square, accessible at all times to the people.” Because parks are a critical forum for free speech and free assembly, local ordinances restricting access to them must be “narrowly tailored” to serve a specific “government interest,” such as park maintenance, Donnelly wrote.