Life in Freedom Plaza
As a complement (hopefully) to Jane’s and Kevin’s fine coverage of the October2011 and related actions in Washington DC, I thought I’d share a few (overexposed, smartphone) pics to illustrate life in Freedom Plaza.
I arrived as things got started yesterday (Thursday). Every bit as interesting as the off-Plaza events are the interactions and activities of those who hold the Plaza while the off-site demonstrations take place. The picture below gives you an idea of the “typical scene” in mid-afternoon (taken today around 2 p.m.).
The bedrolls, backpacks and other belongings of overnight occupiers are in the foreground. They fill the two or three grassy areas along the Plaza’s south side. As Kevin reported earlier today, federal park police have thus far chosen to do nothing more than harass overnighters, but have allowed them to remain. You can also just make out at the far right (just to help put you “in the Plaza”) the corner of the stage at the far eastern end of the tract.
There’s a constant, subtly charged undulation of folks coming and going, milling about and talking on the Plaza’s hardscaped surface. I can confidently estimate daytime numbers of never less than 500 to 1,000 on the Plaza and its edges while others are demonstrating off-site. Visitors and occupants range from curious Washingtonians passing through to hard-core activists – be they independent or affiliated with one of the many orgs represented here. And “represented” is the right word; no one group is competing for attention over any other. There is a spirit of cooperation and a general acknowledgement, at least among the more than 200 people I’ve talked with the past two days, that we’re all in this for the same basic reason: We, the People – the documented majority who consistently side with humanism, working people, an end to empire, protecting the environment, preserving and expanding the social safety net, ending corporatism, and reforming election funding – are no longer being heard. At. All.
But Eagle Woman was heard.
After the Tar Sands hearing this afternoon, Kandi Mossett (a.k.a. Eagle Woman), a member of the Indigenous Environmental Network, addressed the Plaza in the emotive, infectious style she has brought to this issue for over a month throughout DC. She may be far from the ancestral North Dakota home she is fighting to defend against TransCanada’s pipeline, but she seems right at home here, and got a warm, supportive response.
As Eagle Woman spoke, committee meetings were taking place farther west – about half a block farther west. In the 14th Street end of Freedom Plaza, people sat in folding chairs, on the ground, or in the stray overstuffed loveseat – that’s right – in groups designated by signs including “Media,” and “Corporatism” and “Environment”…
…along with about 10 others. They brainstormed key points on each issue and assembled proposed wording or bullet points for presentation to the evening’s General Assembly. Discussion and debate, while often spirited, was always respectful and considerate of the adopted points preceding new components.
This has been a hallmark of all conversation I’ve witnessed or partaken in over these first two days. Whether in committee confabs or less-formal exchanges, there is a pervading sense of optimism, cooperation, and respect that is hard to quantify, but is clearly an outgrowth of the months of planning that have gone into the October2011 effort.