Occupy the Highway: The immense pain of walking from New York to Washington

November 12, 2011

(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:


Eric Carter, the march's medic, tends to the feet of a marcher, the day after the group completed a 30-mile walk. (Elizabeth Flock/The Washington Post)

Eric Carter, the medic, says that while no one has been seriously hurt on the Occupy the Highway march from New York to Washington, “I’ve spent a lot of time touching people’s feet.”

Carter has been an EMT for five years, sometimes for marches, and he can do a mean bandage job. He wears big Nike shoes on the march himself — maybe not the best for walking, since they lack good arch support, but he doesn’t complain.


Owen Johnson has been walking shoeless since New York. His feet are dirtied, but miraculously healthy. (Elizabeth Flock/The Washington Post)

At other times, Carter is more than medic. On the first day, he was the patient, having developed the flu and forcing himself out of the march so he could sleep it off and catch up later . But at other times, he is the voice of reason, yelling out, “Don’t touch that!” more than once — one time when a marcher attempts to pick up a dead cat, another time when Blood says he’s going to cut roadkill deer into a hide to wear.

When the marchers wake up Saturday, some of them in tents provided by Occupy Trenton, others in a crumbling art studio down the block, they stumble to their feet as if they were waking up after battle. One marcher, playwright Harry Newman, 50, says he can’t go on. His big toenail is falling off, and his feet barely fit in his shoes. Although he will head back to New York today, he says he is glad he came.

“I’ve been involved in groups like this for a long time,” he said, “but putting your body into something like this, I think it gives you the hope that there can be real change.”

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