WASHINGTON — Hundreds of protesters marched in Washington on Sunday, angered at what they said was the US government’s willingness to bail out rich corporations while neglecting the nation’s hard-pressed citizens.
The Occupy DC movement, a fledgling activist group which set up a makeshift headquarters at McPherson Square on K Street one week ago, showed signs of growing as people from across the country headed to join them in the capital.
More than 200 demonstrators marched to Freedom Plaza, near the White House, and a second demonstration saw a similar crowd head towards Malcolm X Park in northwest Washington.
“There are a lot of people in this country who cannot afford to educate their children and live in an educated society. I don’t want to live in a third world country,” said Lana Ferree, a science teacher from Pennsylvania.
“We don’t need huge corporations, just jobs. But the government is all about Exxon and Wall Street,” she added.
Occupy DC’s website states the movement is built on the example of Occupy Wall Street, whose activists have continuously camped out in a New York park since September 17.
Both groups are angered at rising inequality in the United States, in the wake of the global financial crisis.
“Our focus is on the economy, corporate corruption of our political system, and the negative effects of corporate personhood,” Occupy DC, which has deliberately avoided appointing a spokesman, says on its website.
Anthony Allen, 38, a salesman and father of two who lives in Washington and has been at McPherson Square since Thursday, said “the fact that nothing is going right” in the US economy, had led him to protest.
“I’ve been waiting for this to happen for the last two years, because our system of government is not working,” he said as he handed out information leaflets to new arrivals at McPherson Square.
“This is an eclectic group. I met a guy who managed a couple of Wal-Mart stores and another person who is going to get kicked out of their apartment next week.”
President Barack Obama said Thursday that the anti-Wall Street protests in New York and beyond were an expression of public anger and frustration over the antics of bankers and a moribund economy, with unemployment at 9.1 percent.
But Allen said the president was also to blame.
“I voted for Obama but he sold us a bag of goods that he’s nowhere near delivering,” Allen added, standing next to a protest banner that read “Welcome to the American autumn,” alluding to this year’s “Arab Spring” revolutions.
Karen Lorenz, a 53-year-old public librarian from Annapolis, Maryland, carried a placard that read: “You know things are bad when librarians march.”
“In the last three years my wage has been cut by five percent,” she said.
“People are pissed, and I don’t mean drunk,” she added.
Other placards being used on Sunday, stated “We got screwed,” “I still hate Bush,” and “If you see us, join us.”
Occupy Wall Street and Occupy DC have been criticized in the media for lacking any specific aims but The New York Times in an editorial on Sunday said the groups’ aims should be obvious “to anyone who has been paying attention since the economy went into a recession two years ago.”
“It is not the job of the protesters to draft legislation. That’s the job of the nation’s leaders and if they had been doing it all along there might not be a need for these marches and rallies,” the Times said.
The protests are “the first line of defense against a return to the Wall Street ways that plunged the nation into an economic crisis from which it has yet to emerge,” the editorial concluded.
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