Three Weeks Occupying Freedom Plaza

 Kevin Zeese  Nation of Change   Thursday 27 October 2011

“We’ve had rallies and protests, closed down banks and the Chamber of Commerce, protested in the House, Senate and at the White House.”

It has been a whirl­wind of ac­tiv­ity since Oc­to­ber 6 when the oc­cu­pa­tion of Free­dom Plaza began.  We’ve had ral­lies and protests, closed down banks and the Cham­ber of Com­merce, protested in the House, Sen­ate and at the White House.  We’ve had a se­ries of fan­tas­tic speak­ers from around the United States and the world, in­clud­ing the Egypt­ian Rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies. The sup­port from the DC com­mu­nity has been in­cred­i­ble – restau­rants, churches, unions and in­di­vid­u­als have brought us food and warm cloth­ing.  The Oc­cupy Move­ment has struck a chord with Amer­i­cans fed up with the un­fair­ness of the econ­omy and end­less wars. 

Oc­cu­py­ing Wash­ing­ton, DC

Peo­ple came to Wash­ing­ton, DC to oc­cupy Free­dom Plaza for many rea­sons, as seen in this video Why Are Peo­ple Oc­cu­py­ing Free­dom Plaza?  And, lots of peo­ple have dif­fer­ent re­ac­tions here’s What some by­standers think of the oc­cu­pa­tion of Wash­ing­ton, DC? When I got a chance to speak on the first day I stated our one de­mand as END COR­PO­RATE RULE.  As the oc­cu­pa­tion has pro­gressed and we’ve held Gen­eral As­sem­blies and com­mit­tee meet­ings, I still see that as a goal that en­com­passes the long list of trans­for­ma­tional changes that are needed. Cor­po­rate power has en­tan­gled it­self in all as­pects of Amer­i­can life, so end­ing cor­po­rate rule re­quires con­fronting a lot of is­sues.

We let the cap­i­tal know that the oc­cu­pa­tion of Wash­ing­ton, DC had begun by hav­ing a march from Free­dom Plaza to the White House and Cham­ber of Com­merce.  We shut the Cham­ber of Com­merce with a jobs protest and then went on to K Street, the cen­ter of spe­cial in­ter­est lob­by­ists and held a rush hour march.

We began our first day with a rally that fea­tured Cheri Honkala, the founder of the Kens­ing­ton Wel­fare Rights League, Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Re­port and Ash­ley Sanders of the cli­mate change group Peace­ful Up­ris­ing. Our first evening event fea­tured Chris Hedges, the award win­ning war cor­re­spon­dent and au­thor as well as po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor and car­toon­ist, Ted Rall and Afghan youth.  It was a pow­er­ful first day.

Protest­ing Drones and War

On the first day of the 11th year of the Afghanistan War, we began the day with a rally and protest at Gen­eral Atom­ics, the maker of drones.  That was fol­lowed by an anti-war march and rally to the new memo­r­ial to Mar­tin Luther King, Jr.  The march was filled with big dis­plays of anti-war, eco­nomic jus­tice and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion mes­sages.       

A sec­ond protest against drones was held at the Smith­son­ian’s Air and Space Mu­seum’s drone ex­hibit. The mu­seum’s pri­vate se­cu­rity pep­per sprayed peace­ful pro­test­ers. We later dis­cov­ered that there was an agent provo­ca­teur who con­fessed that he In­fil­trated Oc­to­ber2011 with in­ten­tion of dis­rupt­ing our protests.  In fact, two provo­ca­teur’s es­ca­lated the vi­o­lence of our peace­ful protest. We dis­cov­ered and evicted the sec­ond provo­ca­teur a few days later.

The Free­dom Plaza oc­cu­pa­tion con­tin­ued to protest the wars when the Sec­re­tary of De­fense and Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tes­ti­fied be­fore the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. This protested re­sulted in seven peo­ple being ar­rested protest­ing the wars at House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. One oc­cu­pier, Ali Mc­Craken, was cited for an as­sault on Sec­re­tary Panetta even though she never got any­where near him.  She wrote about it in: Dis­patch From Ac­tivist Ar­rested for “As­sault­ing” Leon Panetta Dur­ing Sup­pos­edly Pub­lic Hear­ing.

While the Free­dom Plaza oc­cu­pa­tion has protested war, it was or­ga­nized to not only end mil­i­tarism, but to end cor­po­ratism – the source of war.  A protest in the Hart Sen­ate Of­fice Build­ing on Oc­to­ber 11, fo­cused on both of these is­sues.  In that protest we shut down all the Sen­ate of­fices in the Hart build­ing.  Here’s the Real News about our Sen­ate ac­tion.

Eco­nomic Protests

Most of the focus of Free­dom Plaza has been on the un­fair­ness and cor­rup­tion in the eco­nomic sys­tem.

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Wall Street gave the Free­dom Plaza oc­cu­pa­tion a gift when it held a “Wall Street Comes to Wash­ing­ton Health­care” con­fer­ence.  The focus of the con­fer­ence was how big busi­ness in­ter­ests and in­vestors could profit even more from health­care.  Dr. Mar­garet Flow­ers, a lead­ing sin­gle payer ad­vo­cate, con­fronted the Wall Street in­vestors try­ing to profit from health care in their own con­fer­ence. While Dr. Flow­ers was in­side 50 Free­dom Plaza oc­cu­piers were in a picket line out­side that fo­cused on how Wall Street greed kills those in need. One of the pow­er­ful sto­ries came from Adara Scar­lett who de­scribed how her fa­ther killed him­self at 54 years old in order to pre­vent his fam­ily from hav­ing mas­sive health care bills.  Here is the let­ter from her fa­ther de­scrib­ing why he killed him­self.  There are many ex­am­ples but Adara Scar­let shows why Wall Street and in­sur­ance should get out of health care.

Oc­cupy Wash­ing­ton, DC has fo­cused a lot of our at­ten­tion on the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce.  The Cham­ber is the cor­po­rate bully of Wash­ing­ton, DC and since our long-term goal is to end cor­po­rate rule, we need to take on the lead bully. From our first day we took on the Cham­ber of Com­merce and shut them down. Oc­cupy Free­dom Plaza brought our Mes­sage to the Cham­ber of Com­merce again 18 days later when we shut them down over the issue of fore­clo­sures.  Un­be­liev­ably, the Cham­ber of Com­merce urges more fore­clo­sures and does not want the gov­ern­ment to do any­thing to pre­vent fore­clo­sures. We plan to con­sis­tently focus on the Cham­ber and each time we will focus on one of our 15 core is­sues, on each the Cham­ber is on the wrong side pro­tect­ing the 1%.

An­other major focus is the bank­ing sys­tem, es­pe­cially the too big to fail banks that U.S. tax­pay­ers saved from bank­ruptcy.  On Oc­to­ber 15th the In­ter­na­tional Day of Ac­tion in Wash­ing­ton, DC we suc­cess­fully shut down a Bank of Amer­ica. This protest, done in con­junc­tion with the other DC oc­cu­pa­tion on K Street, was part of an in­ter­na­tional day of protest from Tahrir Square to Times Square in over 1,500 cities world­wide

At a protest against fore­clo­sures we shut down a Wells Fargo Bank.  And, at two protests Citibank was shut down. Citibank was fo­cused on be­cause it has not paid taxes in four years hid­ing money off-shore while at the same time being the largest re­cip­i­ent of TARP fund­ing.  They pay ex­ces­sive ex­ec­u­tive salaries while pay­ing their tellers only $12.65 an hour.  They just an­nounced an­other quar­ter of high prof­its, while con­tin­u­ing to fore­close on homes and hold back loans to small busi­nesses.  For all these rea­sons Free­dom Plaza Oc­cu­piers protested Citibank twice, so far.

Vis­i­tors to Free­dom Plaza

In our first 20 days we’ve had a wide range of vis­i­tors to Free­dom Plaza.  We were vis­ited by a group of el­e­men­tary to high school stu­dents who were study­ing so­cial jus­tice.   Ralph Nader toured Free­dom Plaza and spoke to the Oc­cu­pa­tion Move­ment.

Patch Adams con­ducted a teach-in where he called for a Rev­o­lu­tion of Love. Jim High­tower spoke to the Free­dom Plaza oc­cu­piers about the peo­ple vs. the elites and how cor­po­rate greed is a root cause of the prob­lems we face.  Dick Gre­gory spoke at a rally on Free­dom Plaza bring­ing years of civil rights ac­tivism to the oc­cu­piers.

Cor­nel West came to Free­dom Plaza; where he spoke and par­tic­i­pated in a march to U.S. Supreme Court.  The protest led to Dr. West and 18 oth­ers being ar­rested on the steps of Supreme Court. Here’s a video of Cor­nel West at the march and his ar­rest at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Per­haps one of the most in­ter­est­ing groups of vis­i­tors who came was the Egypt­ian Rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies who con­ducted teach-in at Free­dom Plaza. Their mes­sage was one of per­sis­tence and con­fi­dence that we can change the fu­ture.  They told us that noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble and that the fu­ture we en­vi­sion for the United States can be­come a re­al­ity.

How Long Will Free­dom Plaza Be Oc­cu­pied?

While the Na­tional Park Ser­vice has given us a four month per­mit, this per­mit does not allow us to “oc­cupy” Free­dom Plaza.  We are not al­lowed to camp or sleep on Free­dom Plaza nor are we al­lowed to cook or re­ceived food pre­pared off the Plaza.  The Park Po­lice have warned us that we could be re­moved for oc­cu­py­ing Free­dom Plaza.  They warn us they are get­ting pres­sure from “the ad­min­is­tra­tion” to en­force the rules against camp­ing. We are prepar­ing for them to re­move us in the next week or two.

The last time our per­mit ran out the Gen­eral As­sem­bly voted in sol­i­dar­ity to stay on Free­dom Plaza.  In­deed, we had a dance party  when the per­mit ran out. We do not fear the po­lice com­ing in fact we danced wait­ing for the po­lice who never came.  When Oc­cupy Wall Street was under threat we put out an ur­gent ac­tion alert call­ing for sol­i­dar­ity with oc­cupy Wall Street as did many oth­ers. Some of our par­tic­i­pants went to Wall Street to stand with them. The oc­cu­pa­tion of Free­dom Plaza is re­ceiv­ing great com­mu­nity sup­port and we hope the com­mu­nity will come to the Plaza if we are threat­ened.  But, we will not leave, the work we are doing is too vital to the di­rec­tion of the na­tion.

The Oc­cupy Move­ment is hav­ing an im­pact.  Some are al­ready ask­ing whether the oc­cu­pa­tions are shift­ing the cen­ter of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics?  And, cor­po­rate Amer­ica is start­ing to take the move­ment se­ri­ously, see Leaked Memo: The Cor­po­rate Board Rooms Fear the Oc­cupy Move­ment Oc­cu­py­ing their Board Rooms Tar­get­ing In­di­vid­ual Ex­ec­u­tives. This move­ment is still in its in­fancy.  The eco­nomic in­se­cu­rity and un­fair­ness in the econ­omy af­fects all of Amer­i­cans and makes all of us “the 99%.” The eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal elites should take this move­ment se­ri­ously be­cause we know the peo­ple can rule bet­ter than the elites.

Kevin Zeese is an organizer for the Occupation of Washington, DC in Freedom Plaza and co-director of Its Our Economy and co-chair ofCome Home America.
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By Published On: October 27th, 20112 Comments


  1. kitchenmudge October 28, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    In Orange County (that of Nixon and Dornan fame), the Irvine City Council recently gave permission for the occupiers to camp. They had previously been required to stay awake on the sidewalk all night to avoid arrest. This movement has spread far enough, and thick enough, that it will not be over soon.

  2. Coleen Rowley October 27, 2011 at 10:08 PM

    What came first, the chicken or the egg? Corporatism or militarism? It’s probably useless to debate but clearly the domestic miseries being experienced by American citizens losing their jobs, homes, education, social safety net, pensions, etc. is joined at the hip to their government’s pursuit and its overreaching quest for military empire. Empires do not, however, crumble from losing foreign battles but from their own internal corruption.

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