he rain came down relentlessly, stinging us in the side of our faces by the occasional gust of wind, almost blowing the cowboy hat from my head several times. We had been marching on sidewalks through the K Street district, watching the passersby film us on their phones, some of them holding up solidarity fists as we marched past. The pouring rain and cold weather didn’t damper our protest, but rather solidified our resolve, as we came together at the corner of K and 14th streets, hugging each other in our ponchos and raincoats, holding signs, chanting as we walked forward with purpose.
Some started to chant, “Out of the sidewalks! Into the streets!” Protesters marched from the sidewalk to the road, walking in between cars stopped in traffic. Even the parade marshals in fluorescent orange vests started signaling us to leave the sidewalks. As my feet hit the asphalt, I watched as hundreds of protesters around me spill into the streets.
Up ahead, I saw another contingent of protesters standing in another major intersection, and saw a crowd of hundreds behind them. I looked over my shoulder, and saw a sea of people marching behind me. It hit all of us at once that we had just shut down 4 blocks of K Street in the middle of the day. The entire crowd, at least 2,000 strong, erupted into cheers. Caught in the moment, I mic checked “The Greatest Speech Ever Written” from Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator to the crowd, with the help of three activists on bullhorns. By the time I was done reading the speech, the rain had completely soaked and ruined my paper. I tore it up and screamed the last line with what remained of my hoarse voice,
“Soldiers! In the name of Democracy, let us all unite!”
On December 7, four blocks of K Street were shut down by a united front of people from dozens of cities, from dozens of states. There were unemployed workers, underemployed college students squeezed by student loan debt, folks who identified with the Occupy movement, and members of labor unions. All of them were together in one spot, united in one cause. The sound of the people in the streets drowned out the sound of the wailing police sirens. In that moment, we were unstoppable.
Just as international financiers’ corruption of capitalism inspired the birth of Occupy Wall Street, corporate special interests’ corruption of our government inspired the occupation of K Street. Both included a deeply diverse base of participants from all walks of life. Both took place in the beating heart of each respective industry. Both should be seen as equally historic and iconic moments in the fight to restore fairness to our economic and political systems.
The fact that money talks louder than actual speech in Congress is no secret— opensecrets.org provides details on how much each respective industry contributed to the campaigns of elected officials in their database. And its no secret that lots of corporations paid more to lobby Congress than they paid the federal government in taxes. Verizon, for example, paid $0 in federal taxes for 2 years, got $951 million back as a tax refund, yet spent $52 million lobbying Congress for more tax loopholes. Bill McKibben of the Tar Sands Action movement recently tweeted, “the 234 members of Congress who voted to revive Keystone (XL) have collected $42 million from dirty energy companies. That’s gross.”
Our march on K Street got the attention of millions through national media coverage- check out the links below for details, pictures and video of our historic action, and share it with your friends!
8 Dec, 2011
8 Dec, 2011
8 Dec, 2011