With a police escort, the group carried a tie-dyed peace flag, an American flag and a yellow bandanna affixed to a stick into McPherson Square, home of the growing Occupy D.C. encampment.
Planting their flag in the District, they immediately held a meeting to try to figure out how best to take their frustrations to Capitol Hill, a growing focus for the movement that started Sept. 17 in a park near Wall Street but now includes more than 1,000 occupation sites around the world.
“I will march till my feet bleed to make this point,” Mike Gibb, 21, of Bel Air, Md., told several dozen reporters and well-wishers at the park. “You may ask why I went on this march. I ask you, ‘Why didn’t you?’ ”
On Nov. 9, before New York police raided Occupy Wall Street at Zuccotti Park, the 21 protesters set out from Manhattan to take their message to Congress, timed for when the congressional “supercommittee” would issue its decision on how to reduce the deficit.
They walked through Trenton, N.J.; Philadelphia; Wilmington, Del.; Joppatowne, Md.; and Baltimore, then to College Park, relying on supporters for food, a place to sleep and some cash.
Although half of the original marchers dropped out before arriving in the District, the group picked up supporters along the way. After congressional leaders announced Monday that the supercommittee had failed to make a deal, the marchers quickened their pace to arrive a day ahead of schedule.
On Tuesday, in a chilly rainstorm, a drummer led the protesters south on Rhode Island Avenue while numerous motorists honked in support. Owen Johnson, who attended Arlington County public schools, marched the entire route without shoes.
“I don’t think most people even realize what it’s like to walk two miles,” Johnson, 23, said as he walked near the District’s Eckington section.
Darin Annussek hobbled into the District on crutches after getting severe shinsplints two days earlier.
“I know there is a lot of complacency, but you just can’t settle,” Annussek, 36, said while walking near the Bloomingdale neighborhood. “You have to keep fighting for things, and I feel personally this movement speaks to something.”
The marchers’ arrival in the District comes at a potentially pivotal point for the Occupy Wall Street movement, both in New York and locally.
With police across the country moving to break up encampments, the group is increasingly divided over how best to keep its message relevant.
Although polls in the early days of the movement showed broad public support, some recent surveys indicate that some of the support might be waning amid news reports about sporadic violence and sanitation concerns at some encampments. Some supporters are urging the protesters to shift their attention to Washington or into political organizing, while others want them to stay focused on New York bankers and stockbrokers.