In the Occupy DC Earth Week demonstrations, every day had a theme. The first four days of actions were dedicatedto the elements: air, fire, water, and earth, whileFriday morning broughta march against BP onthe anniversary of theDeepwater Horizonoil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The rest of the weekend, co-organized by the Anarchist AllianceDC, was dedicated to theInternational Monetary Fund and World Bank Group, since it coincided with their biannualconference.Monday’s “Air” themetargeted the AmericanPetroleum Institute (API),the main lobby and tradeassociation for the oilindustry. The brief marchfrom McPherson Squareto a rally outside the API’s offices on L StreetNW decried the API’scampaigns to discreditscience that shows man-made climate change isoccurring.The Keystone XLpipeline, and the Albertatar sands that wouldsupply its cargo, werethe subject of Tuesday’s“Fire” demonstration.Demonstrators marched to, and rallied in front of, theoffices of Bryan Cave LLP, lobbyists for TransCanadaCorporation, owners of the Keystone pipeline. They thenmarched to the Canadian Embassy, where they rushed tohold the doors open for a mic check into the interior.TransCanada’s current pipeline runs oil from Alberta tothe oil hub city of Cushing, Oklahoma. An extension that would run from Alberta toMontana has raised concernsover possible contaminationof the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides 30% of irrigation water in theUnited States and drinking water to approximately 1.9million people.However, some feel thatthe pipeline is only partof the larger problem of burning “dirty” fossil fuelsregardless of how they’retransported. “The KeystonePipeline isn’t the problem,the Alberta tar sands are theproblem!” said Brian Eister,a member of the Occupy DCEarth Week working group. Wednesday’s “Water”action was against the American Natural Gas Alliance for their supportof hydraulic fracturing(colloquially known as“fracking”). Fracking involvespumping vast quantitiesof special fluids into shalerock at high pressure tofracture it and release any natural gas trapped inside.These fluids contain toxicchemicals, such as benzene,that can then seep intodrinking water, as can sandcontaining radioactive tracers used to map the fractures.Occupiers mic-checked their opposition in the lobby of the building that houses ANGA’s offices.“Anyone that has even a cursory understanding of theprocess knows that yes, it is dangerous. It is poisoningour drinking water. You cannot tell anybody that dumpingmillions of gallons of a toxic chemical cocktail into theground, past our aquifers, will not have a negative effect,”said Barry Knight, a protester.Thursday, focusing on “Earth,” Occupiers marchedagainst “corporate agribusiness,” specifically the officesof Monsanto and Cargill, located on I Street NW and 15thStreet NW, respectively. Monsanto’s primary business isgenetically modified seed, while Cargill’s, as the largestprivately held corporation in the U.S., is food processing,logistics, and commodities trading.The Friday activity, marking the two-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, brought the first arrestof the week. Occupy DC marched from Freedom Plaza tothe New York Avenue offices of BP, where Ray Voide, anartist, built an oil rig statue and dumped “oil” (water-basedink and flour) onto the sidewalk outside BP’s offices. Policedetained Voide on noticing the oil. “I’m only sorry it wasn’ta bigger mess I made,” Voide said. “My job as an artist [...]is to make sure that people say, ‘what’s going on here?’”That afternoon, demonstrators marched on the IMFand World Bank complex in Foggy Bottom. After afailed attempt to get inside via the “InfoShop” bookstoreentrance, the march circled the complex before returningto McPherson Square, stopping in most intersections before the police threatened arrest. A repeat march on Saturday morning caught delegateson their way into the conference. “Loan shark, loan shark, what do you say - how many kids did you kill today?”chanted protesters, two of whom were arrested thatmorning. One was reportedly hospitalized from injuriessustained during the arrest. The other, Nancy M. of the Anarchist Alliance DC, was defiant. “No matter what, we will continue raising our voices against the IMF and the World Bank, and about what they do, to call out thesecorrupt capitalist organizations to the public.”Saturday night’s demonstration, the week’s largest withabout 80 people, first targeted party tents outside the IMF- World Bank complex, and then moved on to three hotelshousing conference attendees. Protesters wrapped up onSunday with a last, brief march and rally for about a half anhour in front of the complex.The separate Occupy encampments in Washington, D.C. were merged into a single Occupy DC located in McPhersonSquare on April 14, after both General Assemblies voted tosupport the move in early April. Supplies from FreedomPlaza’s occupation were transported to McPherson Square before the 6 a.m. April 14 deadline stipulated in FreedomPlaza’s National Park Service permit.“Since the breakdown of the camps [by the NationalPark Police] we have seen more andmore collaboration between the twocamps,” said an occupier during ageneral assembly (GA) discussionon the move. “This merger was in-evitable.” While both GAs agreed individu-ally to support the merger, the com- bined assembly was unable to findconsensus on whether to transfera permit from Freedom Plaza toMcPherson Square. There werediscussions on options includinga blanket permit for the park or toonly carry it over to a single sec-tion. Both ideas were rejected by the McPherson Square occupation.The entire Occupy DC encampmentat McPherson Square will continue without a permit. Ann Wilcox, a member of theNational Lawyers Guild who hasprovided legal support at FreedomPlaza, argued during a combinedgeneral assembly that a mixed per-mitted/unpermitted space wouldallow “the best of both worlds. The permit would allow ac-cess to certain resources but also more liberty in the unper-mitted space.” A permit from the Park Service would have addressedconcerns such as the use of an on-site kitchen and ampli-fied sound. After the permit proposal failed, Bill Miniutti, who inher-ited signatory status on the permit for Freedom Plaza afterthe initial signatories abandoned the encampment, stated,“I am probably the happiest guy in the world right now be-cause I can get off of that damn permit. It was needed at atime and that time has passed.”Both Occupy camps began at around the same time, but they had very fundamental differences since the start.McPherson Square’s occupation formed much as the oth-er occupations had across the country with a general as-sembly meeting in a public park.Freedom Plaza’s camp was ini-tially named “Stop the Machine”and was planned before the Oc-cupy movement swept acrossthe country last fall.Focused primarily on anti- war activism, Stop the Machinelacked the horizontal organiza-tional structure of other occupa-tions. Instead, what would soon become Occupy Washington DCembraced a vertical structure with a small group of organizersmaking a majority of the deci-sions.“The horizontal organizing is what makes the Occupy move-ment so uniquely potent andactually effective,” said Lacy Ma-cAuley, who has been involved atMcPherson Square. “Everyone isincluded in an egalitarian way.The organizers [from FreedomPlaza] demonstrated in theirmeetings about it that they werenot able to horizontally organize.”Despite this, talk of a merger had gone on since the firstday of the two separate encampments. Barry Knight fromFreedom Plaza said prior to the merger discussions, “Idon’t see a difference between Freedom and McPherson.I think they’re two different camps working towards thesame goals.”
Week of direct actions highlights environmental problems
By Jason Woltjen
Merger unifies D.C. occupations
Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square come to consensus
After a winter of planning meetings held in co-opsand basements around suburban Maryland, Occupy Montgomery County emerged for their first People’s Assembly on March 31. The assembly, attended by over 50people, took place in Woodside Park in Silver Spring.“It’s nice to see people coming together so close to D.C.,”said Michael Acosta, who came from Occupy Reno. “Itshows that there are interested people everywhere.”The group met for the first time in early February aftersuburban members of Occupy DC decided it was time toaddress local issues in Montgomery County and open upthe Occupy experience to those with other commitments.Much of the discussion at early planning meetings had beenon how to foster a family-friendly atmosphere with shortermeetings and a revised consensus process. The planninggroup even discussed whether the Occupy Montgomery County meetings should be held outside.“[I] feel like the first stage of Occupy was to grab attention,”said Kathleen Sutcliffe, explaining Occupy Montgomery County’s focus on local issues. “[Now the movementis about] being where the people are. That’s one of thestrengths of Occupy Montgomery County - confronting theissues where they are.”Several families with children participated, and a few curious passers-by joined as well. “It went great,” saidMartine Zee, who was heavily involved in the planningstages. “We had a lot of new faces [who hadn’t been at theplanning meetings] and a lot of diversity.” Among those new to the Occupy movement are severallocal high school students who have begun attending Oc-cupy Montgomery County meetings. “This is one of the few things I get out and do,” said Daniel Zucker, a student atEinstein High School in Kensington. He stated that he usu-ally doesn’t get involved in school activities but loves par-ticipating in Occupy Montgomery County. “People who arededicated inspire people to be dedicated,” he said.
Occupy Montgomery County can be found on Twitter ast @OccupyMoCoMD.
Community-basedoccupation bloomsin Maryland
ByMichael GoldmanEdward Hunt, a Vietnam veteran,removes a dreamcatcher from aFreedom Plaza tent. (Coulter Loeb)(Nina Montenegro)