Occupy This!

With no clear message, movement struggles to take hold in Washington.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about sticking it to the man. It’s one of my all-time favorite past times. When you’re sticking it to the man, however, it’s important to have a message that sticks. So far, the Occupy DC movement has had no clear message, but maybe there’s still hope.

Maybe it’s because Occupy DC is just an offshoot of the main protests taking place on Wall Street. There, at least the massive numbers of demonstrators are being heard. Here in Washington, it’s been more like a whimper. It’s been barely a whimper, actually, and it’s sad given the potential to keep the ball rolling on what appears to be a growing sentiment nationwide.

McPherson Square is where some of the demonstrations have taken place in Washington over the last week, so I decided to go check out the scene for myself. It was a beautiful Tuesday afternoon, perfect conditions for a protest, yet what I encountered was rather depressing. 

No one was demonstrating! There were some people, about a dozen. Most were sitting around, their signs discarded in a large pile by a tree.  For full disclosure, it was between 3 and 5 p.m. so it’s entirely possible many of the protesters hadn’t gotten off their well-paying federal jobs yet.

Also disheartening were the conversations being held between the folks who had gathered, and the fact they were broken up into different groups with no cohesiveness whatsoever. One 20-something guy was ranting about how George Bush started the Iraq war. Another was talking about how big media was lying about the true message of the protests. 

Across the way, a young man was sitting and eating food next to his Food Not Bombs sign stretched across the ground. Seriously, the scene was like an illustration out of a textbook: How Not to Stage a Protest 101. Once again, that was on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, a big conference was wrapping up across town. The “Take Back the American Dream” conference featured numerous talks and strategy sessions for groups chomping at the bit to show Congress they’re fed up with the stagnation on Capitol Hill.

Here, at least, was an example of how to go about organizing and get a message across. The three-day event was capped off by a protest outside the Capitol building. The group’s message to Congress:  “Jobs, Not Cuts.” Finally, here was something that made some sense. At the very least, it was a concentrated message.

On Thursday, I was baffled to see many of the Occupy DC demonstrators morph into yet another cause. A large crowd gathered at Freedom Plaza to mark the 10 year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, yet some protesters were holding signs calling for the erasure of student debt. Others were dressed up as Guantanamo Bay prisoners, and I was more confused than ever as to what exactly this movement was trying to say. 

One could argue America’s recent wars and the current state of the economy are bound at the hip. Still, from an outsider's perspective, it’s yet another example of a demonstration without a single clear message.

As the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations roll on in New York, maybe the offshoot protests in other cities will pick up some steam. One would think that Washington, DC would be the next focus point of this movement. One would think the ties that bind Wall Street fat cats, corporation lobbyists and members of Congress would be something to yell about.

It’s just sad to think that here in Washington, where there’s a 10 percent unemployment rate, where nearly 1 in 5 residents is living in poverty, and where there’s a massive gap between the haves and have-nots, that some guy is ranting about how George Bush started the Iraq War eight years ago.

For the people taking part in Occupy DC, you’ve got to do better to educate yourselves, and do it fast if you want to keep this ball rolling. You’re going to have to localize and organize if you want to be part of a movement that sees any success whatsoever. 


That was my favorite sign of the week, and believe me, there were lots of different signs with lots of different messages.

To the folks taking part in Occupy DC: get your message straight.

Alex Akesson October 09, 2011 at 11:47 AM
The System Is Not working: This is not an advertisement. There is no market or demographic they are reaching. There is no answer. Deal!
Alex Akesson October 09, 2011 at 11:49 AM
Awful article. Who pays this jerk? Probably nothing, just getting his name out there......
Doug Parrish October 09, 2011 at 01:16 PM
Alex, if the system is not working, you should say so on the ground with one clear, cohesive, unified message. This weekend's protest of a military drone exhibit at the Air and Space Museum is a perfect example of how the Occupy DC movement is not working.
Milton October 09, 2011 at 02:59 PM
These protesters are nothing more than the shoplifters of our society and we are on to them! They are not counter-culture anymore. In fact, they are the fading thong of a briefly perverted mainstream culture. Most of working America is making a mockery of these useful progressive idiots. No one is entitled to a job, no one is entitled to a free education. The banks didn't promise these crybabies a job when they took out their student loans- they promised them an education! So now they claim that they are overeducated and underemployed. If these people would spend as much time on trying to reinvent themselves as they do marching and complaining, I bet that their situations would improve.


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