Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Communique` from Occupied DC: Day Five

Yesterday, Jason, Martin and I were standing in front of the White House with our drums, wondering where the heck the march was.  It was the first time I’ve ever seen the White House and it’s overly vibrant green lawns, surrounded by granite and marble buildings that seem imposing and venerable, just as they are supposed to.  On one side is the Eisenhower building, which feels oddly gothic and gray, as if one part of Washington DC at one time was taken over by an ambitious Emily Bronte fan; on the other side is the white-columned Treasury Building, which, I kid you not, sits directly cross from a matching building that hosts Bank of America and PNC Bank.  With truths like these, you really don’t need to play anything up for the cameras – or, in this case, the blog.

Skipping meals has become the new diet craze for many pagan cluster folks here at Occupy DC, and as light-headedness is starting to set in, Jason and Martin suggest heading off to go get some food.  We begin to head off, but my spider senses are tickling, telling me that the action is somewhere nearby.  One of the things I like the most about doing this kind of thing is the way that my intuition seems to hone and flourish exponentially, and I dawdle behind them, trying to pinpoint exactly where the energy is coming from.  It feels like a sound that I can almost hear at the furthest range of my aural senses, but also a simultaneous fraying of the edges of my perception and a sense of being drawn one way, so that any movement in another direction feels off-kilter and wrong.  Yes, no.  Yes.  Over there, somewhere – no, too far.  That way.  A building.  Not dangerous.  A swelling.  Here it comes.  It’s coming this way.

“Wait!” I tell them.  They stop and look at me, and for a moment I feel foolish, wondering what I’m supposed to say. 

And then the march turns onto Pennsylvania Ave., way off down the street, a blur of people and signs and police cars and a pulsing sense of power and friction and hope all rolled into one.  As we get closer to them and they get closer to us, I see Banjo, a fellow who was in the non-violent direction action training that I helped lead at McPherson Park the day before.  He smiles widely as we join them, and then as we begin the first few beats of our drums the crowd erupts into cheers of welcome.

One thing I can say about the Occupy DC folks is that they are masters of cheers of welcome and unity.  Any time a car passes and honks, they cheer. Occasionally even some of the folks in the sleek black, probably bullet-proof vehicles will stick their heads out of the window and smile in encouragement, and they cheer.  If it’s a fire engine or taxi or work truck, the cheers are even more rowdy and exuberant.  As we march pass the cafes and restaurants and shops, people wave and give us the peace sign in greeting, and Occupy DC cheers.  They are cheery folks.  Literally.

“Occupy Wall Street!  Occupy K Street!  Occupy everything and never give it back!” the chanting starts up, and we drum.  Magically, Elaine materializes beside me with her bell.  A fella with a bass drum finds us, as well, and the next thing you know we have ourselves a band.  

We leave the White House and begin marching back towards McPhearson Park, where Occupy DC is based, and as we move down 15th St., the chant shifts.  “We are the ninety-nine percent!  You are the ninety-nine percent!”

It’s a message of empowered unity and a shared desire for change more powerful than any of the other experiences I’ve had as an activist.  It goes beyond political parties, age, occupation (if you are lucky enough to have one at the moment) and how you feel about abortion or who you think should be eligible to marry one another.  It’s the rallying cry of a world that has finally noticed that those who would hoard power and resources have stepped beyond what is tolerable.  It has all the makings of world-revolution – even if it’s just in its fledgling stages.  Occupy Wall Street has swelled to marches with thousands of people.  Occupy San Francisco has actions planned everyday this coming week.  Occupy Raleigh starts next week.  Occupy Sydney – as in, Sydney Australia – recently sent #OWS (that’s the twitter hashtag – or search moniker – for Occupy Wall Street) a message of support and inspiration that quickly spread throughout the twitterverse. 

The march, which was hosted by the folks in McPherson park (Occupy DC) versus Freedom Plaza (Stop the Machine) came at just the right time for everyone who’s here protesting: earlier in the day, we experienced our first incidence of violence when the security guards at the Air & Space Museum pepper sprayed some 50-100 people who attempted to enter the building to raise awareness about romanticizing weapons and warfare (the action was much bigger than that, but only those at the front of the crowd were attacked).  Jason was there – he’s fine – but I was still back at Freedom Plaza, doing a consensus and facilitation training, because my entire life here has become about trainings and consensus.  Somehow, that rascally Starhawk has roped me into her nefarious plans of world domination through non-violent direct action trainings and educating people in effective consensus process. 

When spirit calls me to this work, she isn’t always clear about what that means.  Since I’ve come to Washington DC, I’ve found myself in a dizzying schedule of meetings and trainings.  On Friday evening Jason and I volunteered to facilitate the General Assembly for Stop the Machine, which may be one of the most difficult things that I’ve ever done in my life, or at least in the last couple of years.  At 7:55pm, Jason was asked by one of the organizers to facilitate; at 8:05pm, we were standing in front of 300 some folks, many of whom had never worked with consensus before, and others whom seemed to be openly hostile about the process.  Beneath the harsh glaring lights of the stage and the omnipresent eye of the livestream feed, we proceeded to dissolve into chaos and confusion yet somehow came out again on the other side with a plan for the next day and a new sense of ownership of the process and our actions. 

Now it’s Sunday night and I’m sitting in a completely peaceful General Assembly being facilitated by Linda, another person who’s been running with the Pagan Cluster lately (it’s been almost an entirely PC lineup – last night Starhawk facilitated).  I’m struck, as I sit here, about how the demographic of the two groups Occupying Washington is becoming galvanized – the crowd here at Stop the Machine seems to be mostly older labor folks, Code Pink folks, and such, whereas the General Assembly that I just left in McPherson Square where Occupy DC is are younger and grittier.  I’m also struck how remarkably calm these folks are, given the fact that most likely the cops will come tonight to try to toss us out. 

Tonight, our permit runs out at midnight. So far the police have looked the other way about the fact that people are regularly breaking the law for camping in the federally-owned space along Pennsylvania Ave., but our guess is that when the permit for our day-time event here expires tonight, things will change. So the conversation shifts from announcements and committees to strategy and justice and revolution, and I find myself questioning my previous decision not to get arrested.   As usual.


  1. My Dear, one thing that I have learned over the last 30 plus years of consciously acknowledging myself as a Heathen Witch, is that when the Mysterious Ones or other Spirit People call, invite, encourage me towards a project, possibility, chance, that I may not see the results of my engagement for many years. But I have learned to trust those promptings. Why? Because more times than not, I have seen what I perceive as good to satisfactory to excellent results, outcomes, manifestations from my work with the Mysteries. May we all actively dare to dwell in beauty, balance and delight!

  2. Hi Donald!

    Oh, thanks for your kind words and wisdom. I am learning to trust the promptings, but its slow, my talking self often thinks she knows best and likes to talk over other selves. It's nice to have folks like yourself there to show me how its done. ;-)