(See the main Occupy the Highway blog for the latest news on the march.)
For the next two weeks, Elizabeth Flock will be reporting from the sides of East Coast roads as she makes her way from Elizabeth, N.J. to Washington, D.C. with a group of Occupy Wall Street protesters. Here’s the view from the highway:
Occupy the Highway protesters Thursday walked from Elizabeth to New Brunswick in New Jersey, approximately 20 miles that left their feet bruised and battered, especially Owen Johnson, who walked shoeless all the way. At times, the march was quiet, the protesters’ attention focused on the effort it takes to walk, or to avoid speeding highway cars or manholes and debris beneath their feet. At other times, there was bickering, mostly over how fast a pace to walk and how often to take a break.
But every so often, there was a moment they said reinvigorated them, or reminded them why they were here. It started in Elizabeth, with a woman who ran from her house and chased them down the street to give them a box of ginger ale. It happened again one town over, where a woman at a Laundromat emptied out her wallet and then asked them to wait so she could run to the ATM.
“By the time we get to Washington, we’ll be the 1 percent,” joked marcher Cologino Rivera. “They treat us like we’re [expletive] rockstars!” said Michael Glazer, a co-organizer of the march.
At a park in Rahway, a family donated peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, banana, clementines, water, and Halloween candy. Several miles later, a hotdog food cart gave out free dogs. The cart vender had missed a concert to wait for the protesters to pass by. Bellies full, there was a sudden spring in the marchers’ step.
When they arrived in New Brunswick, many of them limping or holding their backs, a massage therapist who had followed their march online offered them all a free massage. And two miles further, at a bridge near Rutgers University, almost 100 protesters stood waiting for the marchers, an Occupy New Brunswick movement that had sprung up in response.
The two groups joined forces and marched through the college town, taking over an entire road as they walked against traffic. Buses honked, some in support, others in anger. The protesters cheered, chanted, and began to sing.
“We saw you and we were reenergized,” shouted marcher Bo Han to the crowd. “We love you!”