Occupy DC, which has erected dozens of tents at McPherson Square, is scaling back the daily marches and protests that have tied up downtown traffic and frustrated some rush-hour commuters.
Since the group formed Oct.1 as an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement, protesters have been holding daily marches against what they view as corporate greed.
The demonstrations often only attracted a few hundred people, but contributed to gridlock on downtown streets because many were held just as evening rush began. At times, more than a dozen police and traffic control officers accompanied the demonstrators to facilitate rolling street closures.
But Ricky Lehner, a member of Occupy DC’s Action Committee, said the group has decided to “move away” from daily marches. Instead, he said, it will focus on organizing “two or three” protests per week.
“Before, we were going out daily, but we were still in the infancy stage. Now we don’t want to burn people out, “said Lehner, 23, who is from Tampa but now lives in the park. “We are trying to get a bit more organized…We are still going to be marching in the streets, just not everyday, but trying to organize it so it’s more planned out.”
By taking several days to plan each protest, Lehner said organizers are hoping to generate larger turnouts for each event. He said the next “action” will likely be Thursday, but he declined further comment.
The shift in tactics comes as the Occupy DC encampment at McPherson Square is morphing into something of a commune for the left.
Instead of rowdy street demonstrations, the calendar on the group’s Web site is filled with ‘teach-ins” and seminars on political activism.
On Tuesday evening, for example, Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig is scheduled to give a teach-in at the park on government corruption and the role money plays in politics. The group is also trying to launch its own newspaper.
From the start of their movement, the young campers at McPherson Square have appeared more reluctant to engage in civil disobedience than their peers camping at Freedom Plaza.
That group, Stop the Machine, made up of veterans of protests against the Iraq war, has been associated with several high-profile events, including an attempted sit-in at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and Sunday’s protest at the Supreme Court, which resulted in the arrest of professor, novelist and activist Cornell West. Stop the Machine has a permit until late December to remain camped at Freedom Plaza.
Occupy DC never had a permit to use McPherson Square, but members of the group say they are gearing up to try to remain through the winter, including organizing additional supplies for cold weather.
“We are not going to take the winter off,” Lehner said