As the protests against American financial institutions grow in strength in New York and pop up around the country, similar rallies were staged Thursday in D.C.
Two blocks from the White House, a large and diverse group gathered under the banner "October 2011" to "denounce the systems and institutions that support endless war and unrestrained corporate greed."
Organizers called protesters together at the plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue across the street from the Wilson Building, the seat of D.C. government. The protesters received permits to assemble in Freedom Square for the next several days.
Also on Thursday, the Occupy DC protest, which started with a few dozen students standing in the rain last weekend, marched along K Street from Freedom Plaza past the White House to the Chamber of Commerce, where they demanded jobs and staged a sit-in.
H Street was closed between 15th and 16th streets, but protesters remained peaceful and no one was arrested.
The Occupy DC assembly is an offshoot of the longer Occupy Wall Street protest, which has been camped out in New York's Financial District for the past three weeks. Protesters blame corporate bailouts and greed for enriching the wealthiest 1 percent of the population while leaving the other 99 percent of the population to suffer in a bad economy, unable to find jobs, facing foreclosure, and fearing cuts in Social Security and Medicare.
Up until Wednesday, downtown McPherson Park in Northwest has been the epicenter of Occupy D.C. A few dozen have made camp there, living off of donated food.
Around Freedom Plaza on Thursday morning, local businesses declared their bathrooms off-limits to arriving protesters, but the city dropped off several porta-johns.
After lectures at the plaza, organizers planned on marching first to the White House, then to the Chamber of Commerce, and finally to K Street.
The protests have local law enforcement on heightened alert. A driver with a car full of cardboard boxes sparked a brief security concern. The Wilson Building was locked down and several blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue were blocked off while officers searched the vehicle, which had been attempting to enter an underground garage off of Pennsylvania Avenue. No threat was detected, and both car and driver were released.
The Occupy DC group marched on the Newseum on Wednesday, with the hopes of confronting lawmakers at an evening panel there. However, security guards at the front door barred their entry, and the group was turned away.
“We see the problem in the United States as corporatism,” organizer Kevin Zeese told News4's Chris Gordon on Wednesday. “It affects every issue. We see it in health care, where the health insurance industry controls things; big finance, where Wall Street controls things. We want to see the end of corporate rule and the shifting of power to the people.”
More acts of civil disobedience are planned, Zeese said.