So much for the cries of “solidarity!” A large Occupy D.C. protest on December 7 brought out an interesting dynamic within the Occupy movement.
Unions have been accused of “astro-turfing” rallies and hijacking causes through the use of money, manpower and political muscle. On Wednesday afternoon, some protesters seemed to agree.
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Union members protested alongside some occupiers on K Street Wednesday, with union marshals keeping a close watch on their members. They kept members on sidewalks and out of the streets. An impressive system of ushers shepherded the human crocodile along its route.
When arrests were taking place at the intersection of 16th and K Streets — after dozens of protesters blocked the roadway — one union marshal was heard telling members to get out of the road so that “only the people who want to get arrested are arrested.”
Contrast this with some members of Occupy D.C., who were heard discussing their arrests as a mark of achievement.
Tension mounted for occupiers when the union-heavy procession passed in front of the encampment at McPherson Square and rather than joining the occupiers, the march continued on toward the National Mall with barely a change of pace or backward glance.
What once had been a loud, almost carnival-like atmosphere, with participants numbering in the hundreds despite the driving rain, thinned on the corner of Vermont and K Streets into a rag-tag band of occupiers, some barefoot, numbering in the dozens.
The betrayal felt by the occupiers was palpable. “Unacceptable” was how one put it. A call was then made to hijack the union protest using a human chain to coral the demonstrators and direct them toward the White House.
“It’s like they have their own event, and this is our event,” another occupier said.
Although, she admitted, “I would fucking love for them to join with us but they’re not and their marshals are being fucking asshole leaders and not letting them do a lot of shit that we, they want to do.”