One year to the day after it initiated its occupation of McPherson Square in the nation's capital, Occupy D.C. returned in minuscule numbers to the park it left barren and muddy.
On the first anniversary of the birth of the local chapter of the nationwide protest movement that spread last fall before quickly receding, the few remaining members of Occupy D.C. took to the streets.
“Nobody should ever count Occupy out. It’s a temper tantrum,” Todd Fine, an Occupy D.C. member, said. “It’s necessarily reactive. Eventually the other shoe will drop. When that happens, people will remember this. What Occupy did was show the world that people can fight back.”
Marching down K Street, the District’s traditional lobbying corridor, Occupy activists occasionally blocked intersections and stopped at various targets of their ire along the way, such as British Petroleum, Monsanto, PEPCO, and the Chamber of Commerce.
“This is not the birthday of an occupation; it is the anniversary of an awakening,” the official Occupy D.C. Twitter account proclaimed.
But whatever had been awakened appeared to be in danger of falling asleep once more. By the time the march ended in McPherson Square, the location of the original Occupy camp in D.C., the numbers had dwindled to around 30.
The activists sat under the statue of Civil War general James McPherson and reflected on the group’s salad days, when dozens of tents and hundreds of bodies filled the park, and donations flowed in from around the country.
When police forcibly evicted Occupy from the park in February, they left behind nothing but mud. The grass has returned, fenced off from the public now, along with flowerbeds. The renewed sense of life is in stark contrast to the desolation the occupiers left in their wake.
What is left of Occupy D.C. has split into several working groups that focus on specific projects, such as housing or media, said Occupy D.C. member John Zangas.
“We don’t want to come back to this park and create a spectacle like we did before,” Occupy D.C. member Zangas said. “That was an embarrassment toward the end.”
Zangas said the activists have learned much from the trial-and-error of their early days.
Fine said pointing to Occupy's free-falling membership numbers are “part of an attempt to marginalize” the movement, and that judging Occupy by such a standard ignored its “spiritual” aspect.
Behind Fine, an Occupier announced to the crowd that lunch was late and would be arriving in an hour.