Posts tagged ‘mcpherson square’

January 25, 2012

From Building Tents to Building Movements: Reflections from Occupy DC

By Vasudha Desikan and Drew Franklin


“Occupy is not a panacea, but an opening. It will help us clear the way to a more mature political landscape. It has begun to breathe in the many currents of dissatisfaction and breathe out a new radical imagination.” Vijay Prashad

The question of what the “Occupy” movement is has concerned us ever since it spread to Washington D.C. in October of last year. After witnessing Occupy Wall Street’s tremendous growth in New York, we were inspired to see for ourselves the potential for radical mobilization in our city, where the corporate and state arms of global capital meet. The seat of power in the United States, D.C. has a long history as a center for protest, frequently drawing in activists from all over the country. It is also home to 600,000 legislatively and electorally disenfranchised residents, who have been engaged in their own unique struggles. Occupy D.C. had (and in some respects still has) exciting potential to work in solidarity with these community struggles and catalyze radical growth here and around the country.

From day one, we spent considerable time at Occupy D.C.’s chosen encampment, McPherson Square, a quiet park situated two blocks from the White House on K St. (this location was strategic and symbolic, as downtown K St. is recognized for its concentration of corporate headquarters and lobbying firms.) As anarchists committed to direct democracy, we helped build up the Facilitation committee and worked to implement consensus building processes at general assemblies, spokescouncils, and working groups. We watched the occupation grow quickly from a small group of no more than fifty people making and holding signs, to a “tent city” practicing mutual aid, with free medical care, a free kitchen, and its own library, among other things. Marches grew from ten or twenty people with poorly coordinated chants to hundreds of marchers taking the streets, blocking traffic, and barricading or taking over targeted buildings.

Occupy represented an exciting, transformative moment that saw rage and disillusion fuse with direct action tactics in a strike against oppressive institutions. It brought together hundreds of strangers who might have never worked together, deeply inspired and reinvigorated many burned-out activists, and fostered the development of leadership among a new generation of young radicals—all while helping change the national discourse around inequality. But the movement also has flaws, some quite serious, and they merit further examination.

It was many of these shortcomings that resulted in our very intentional abstention from Occupy D.C. Having stepped back from McPherson, we want to critically reflect on these past few months. 2012 will be a crucial year for popular uprising, as revolutions continue around the world, and as the U.S. gears up for the most expensive presidential election in history. We can learn a lot from the Occupy movement—its successes and failures—and use that experience to keep building momentum and guide popular discontent toward revolutionary struggle.

"DC activists lead an anti-oppression workshop at McPherson Square in October." Photo credit: Rooj Alwazir

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October 11, 2011

Hope to See You in the Streets: Reflections from D.C.

By Vasudha

Lately, I’ve been ending most of my e-mails with “hope to see you in the streets!” This revolutionary corniness can be directly attributed to my participation in the OWS protest on the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1st. Like many of my friends, I was pretty cynical about this at first. I saw some of the early photos of the occupiers and almost collapsed from activist PTSD. America’s Tahrir Square wasn’t going to be lead by the same crusty white anarchists I’d brawled with for much of my organizing life…was it?

And then, you know the story- the pepper spraying incident was the collective “come to Vishnu/Allah/Jesus etc.” moment for many of us. More of my friends in NYC were attending the GAs and participating in meaningful ways. This was enough of a reason for me to hop on a bus from D.C. to NYC to raise some hell on Wall Street. Full disclosure: I grew up in New York with the NYPD.  I’m fully aware of what they are capable of, but even I was shocked by their shameless kettling and subsequent arresting of 700 protestors on the Brooklyn Bridge. In spite of all of this, I came back to D.C. with a renewed fervor to recreate this incredible space here.

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