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Occupy D.C. Taps into a Deep Reservoir of Anger and Discontent

Barrington M. Salmon | 10/19/2011, 1:16 p.m.
Raheem DeVaughn and other protesters sit on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in solidarity before being arrested Sun., October 16.

"I had a beautiful life and a beautiful woman but I lost my job," he recounted. "I was unemployed for a year and a half. I finally got another job and worked with my activist friends. When this movement sprung up, I said, 'Yeah.' All of this is interconnected. Our not having a job is connected to the lobbyists ... we're dealing with inflation and people are barely making ends meet. The American worker is like a dead man walking."

"I will stay out here until this job is done. I want equal living wages for all," said Evans, who is also known as "Seven." All these banks got bailed out so why wasn't I bailed out too? We didn't get (anything)."

Evans, a singer and guitarist with the band Villain 21, said a lot of people are battling anxiety and fear "because all want to have control of their futures. There is a lot of built-up frustration and people don't have a say."

It is that rising frustration that has proved to be the catalyst for the grass-roots protests that began in New York City on Sept. 17, and like a brushfire has spread to more than 1,400 communities in 30 states and countries overseas. A number of protestors and activists in the District alluded to the uprisings in parts of the Arab world earlier this year which was dubbed the "Arab Spring", and several carried signs that spoke of an "American Autumn" of spirited protests against a Congress they say has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the wealthy and large corporations whose greed appears to have no bounds.

What's happening in the nation's capital is an off-shoot of a larger, more vigorous occupation. The Occupy Wall Street movement is comprised of activists from a range of backgrounds and interests. They have railed against social inequality, the vast disparities between the rich and poor - which they deem unacceptable - and corporate gluttony writ large. They oppose the 2008 bailout and are angered that while banks and a number of corporations sit on piles of money, the middle class and the poor face high unemployment, lack of access to quality healthcare, foreclosures and other social ills that have turned the American Dream into a veritable nightmare.

The protest began in the heart of the financial district in New York City at the New York Stock Exchange and demonstrators are camped out at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, not far from Ground Zero.

Protests have hopscotched from Anchorage, Alaska to Orlando, Fla., and from Lansing, Mich., to Massachusetts. Protestors have erected tent cities or marched in scores of cities, including Boston, Los Angeles, London, Toronto, Rome and San Francisco. The New York General Assembly, the decision-making body of Occupy Wall Street, promises to stay put until the problem of corporate greed and the influence of the wealthy on regular Americans is addressed.

In both D.C. locations, protestors pitched tents and transformed the areas they're occupying into little villages on the green.

See Occupy D.C. Part II in next week's issue.