Cati Seibel, 19, of Burke, recently decided to take off the fall semester at to participate in the Occupy DC and October2011 protests. So, for the past two weeks, she's offered free hugs at Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square.
"I don't even know what today is or how long I've been here," Seibel said. "I'm angry about the greed in government. My mom worked for the government as a civilian, and she saw it firsthand."
It seems that interests are aligned between Washington, D.C.'s two largest demonstrations. The protesters at October2011 in Freedom Plaza and Occupy DC in McPherson Square found no evident distinction. Both sites feature speeches and signs decrying war, the Federal Reserve and corporate greed. Some participants even hike back and forth between camps.
Collin, a 19-year-old from Burke, didn't want to use his last name because he burned a $20 bill in front of television cameras last week. "This is a great place to learn and try to affect change," he said of the Freedom Plaza camp. "The amount of organization between us and Occupy DC means that our voices may be heard... A lot of people are confused by our lack of demands. What we're saying is very general. These are the things that are not working in our country, and they need to be fixed. It should be apparent just by watching the news."
Like thousands of protesters Seibel and Collin sleep in tents and eat donated food. "My family understands why I'm out here, but my sister couldn't do this," said Seibel. "She couldn't leave her creature comforts."
The OccupyDC movement has no leadership or spokesperson. "Although we support their organization [October2011], Occupy DC is a people’s movement inspired and based on Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Together," said the Occupy DC website, which describes itself as a "peaceful grassroots movement ... fed up with the current political and economical system in this nation."
The October2011 protest includes a list of the movement's organizers on its website. The protest was organized to begin October 6, 2011, as U.S. involvement in the war in Afghanistan began its 11th year. Part of their pledge reads: "... we will NONVIOLENTLY resist the corporate machine by occupying Freedom Plaza to demand that America's resources be invested in human needs and environmental protection instead of war and exploitation."
Bogie Yohannes, 39, works in Falls Church, and on Oct. 18, received a back massage from a fellow protestor on the sidewalk at McPherson Square. "I'm here because I want to bring out the issues confronting so many people throughout our country," he said. "Corporate America is focused on profits at the expense of people's well-being. It leaves a lot of people short on having what they need to live. I understand it's good to make a profit, but not at the expense of people."
Joshua Corvins, 22, of Southbridge, Mass., just finished washing his clothes in Freedom Plaza when he spoke with Patch. "I don't identify myself with either (political) party because I believe the leadership in both parties has been bought out," he said. "Until we get money out of politics, politics in general won't work."
Margaret Human, 69, has participated in political causes her entire life, but camping out is new to the New Yorker. "We're not going to be able to do anything until we get the money out of politics," she said at Freedom Plaza. "I think Congress is shutting itself down. It's not functioning and it's disintegrating."
Demands and Remedies?
Neither Occupy DC or October 2011 have issued any specific demands or suggested remedies. "One of the reasons why we don’t want to put out any official demands or goals yet is because we want to hear from the people what they want," says the Occupy DC website. "We have heard many messages but we feel like we need more input from more people before we can even think about releasing official demands"
But as the movements continue to grow, from several thousand participants in New York City on September 17, 2011, to world-wide demonstrations this past weekend, some wonder if it's time for specific goals.
A small crowd gathered around Bob Wentworth in McPherson Square as he spoke in front of a flip chart. Wentworth, who works for the Center for Nonviolent Communication, said it's important to honor everyone's needs and to listen emphatically. His key recommendation: "Make clear, positive, do-able requests."
Editor's Note: The title of this article was originally "Too Much to Fight For?", but was changed to better represent the story.