Over the weekend police arrested dozens of Occupy Wall Street protesters in states as far apart as Colorado, Oregon, Texas and Tennessee, after they refused to leave areas where they’d been gathering.
In Denver on Saturday clashes apparently broke out when police tried to stop Occupy members from putting up tents. In Oregon early Sunday morning, at least thirty demonstrators were arrested after refusing to leave a square in the city of Portland.
Last week in California, police moved to clear protesters from a park they had been occupying in Oakland for weeks, citing health concerns.
Hours later hundreds more returned to take the area back. Rocks and firecrackers were thrown. The police responded with tear gas. One person was critically injured.
On Saturday, even the weather seemed to be against the Occupy protesters in Manhattan, where they had to deal with frigid conditions as snow fell on their encampment in Zuccotti Park, just a few blocks from the New York Stock Exchange.
Here in D.C. at McPherson Square on Sunday there was no snow – though it was chilly – and I found the protesters in a sunny mood and none more so than Shannon, “coz we’re gonna change the world, one day, one person, one heart, one mind”.
Shannon, was keen to show me the signature she’d just scrawled in pink felt-tip pen on the naked belly of her friend Hanuman in recognition of the fact that she’s been on so many TV news programmes since joining the protest.
“I’m soooo famous,” she joked. Among the tents and make-shift cabins, children were decorating Halloween pumpkins in honour of the season, while nearby adults met in groups to discuss tactics or listen to impromptu music sessions on the guitar.
With some of the Occupy protests facing police crackdowns and with the weather closing in on the main protest site in New York … some people are wondering if the time has come for the DC protest to take more of a lead role?
Admittedly this could be tough for a group that isn’t formally organised and which represents many different issues.
Nonetheless, with election season approaching the question is timely. Protester Angela Wolf-Guthrie, who had dropped by for the day to lend support, told me: “I think we’d like to see it become the seat of power for the Occupy movement because we are so close to the Capital.”
Angela thinks violence is unlikely to flare at Occupy DC because the police are – generally speaking – better trained than in other US cities and therefore less likely to provoke it … “plus authorities in the capital are keen to avoid it”.
Fellow protester Msawbe is giving up his apartment for a native Indian-American style tipi he’s constructing in McPherson Square, which is just two blocks from the White House.
With the 2012 election campaign already underway he says keeping the protest’s momentum is the most important thing. “I’m kinda shocked that this one right here is not getting the kind of attention that the ones elsewhere are getting … you know like with New York.”
Washington’s slightly more favourable climate, the urgency of the 2012 Presidential election and the proximity to the seat of power all make compelling arguments for Occupy DC to take the lead in this protest movement in the months to come.
Whether it does or not depends on decisions taken by people living in tents both here in the capital city and in similar locations all over the country.