Almost two weeks ago, 21 Occupy Wall Street protesters decided to take the movement on the road, in a march from New York’s Zuccotti Park to the White House. Their goal: to spread the movement to the many cities and small towns they would pass through along the way, and to protest the supercommittee’s likely decision to retain Bush tax cuts “for the rich,” or “one percent.” I met the protesters at their first stop in Elizabeth, N.J. and walked with them most of the way. This is the story of our hike:
The protesters embarked on the 231-mile-trek with a $3,000 check from Occupy Wall Street. But the marchers soon found they didn’t need the money, as they received donations of food and cash, cigarettes and deodorant from local residents and passersby. Occupy movements also sprang up or grew larger in their wake in places such as New Brunswick and Trenton, N.J.
While some of the original 21 marchers dropped out because of missing toenails, shin splints or fevers, new marchers have since joined, so that more than twice as many protesters will arrive in Washington Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the Occupiers intend to hold a “day of action,” to shut down part of the city in protest of the failure by 12 lawmakers to reach a deal that would ease the tax burden on the “99 percent.”
Above, the protesters take a detour off their route on Nov. 15, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pa. to march by Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were debated and adopted. Michael Glazer, 26, of Chicago, holds an American flag as he marches past. “I’m a realist. I know you can’t achieve everything,” Glazer said. “But I think we will always be fighting for something because people are always going to try to exploit how the government is run. It’s our job to fight against that.”
Dylan Bozlee, of Hilo, Hawaii, has his foot taped by volunteer EMT David McClintock of Philadelphia at the Occupy Philadelphia encampment at City Hall on Nov. 15. Bozlee dropped out of college at the University of Hawaii to join Occupy, and says he’d rather travel across America than get a job. “Do I want to work? Only if I wanted a home, wife, kids and a dog. If not, I think you’re ruining your life,” he said. Before the march, Bozlee was a member of the Class Warfare camp at Zuccotti Park in New York, where he says he joined other anarchists in teaching passersby about the concept of warfare of the lower classes against the upper class. His inspiration? “When I saw the pepper spraying by Toni Baloney,” or Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, whose spray hit penned-in female protesters.
School-aged children put up peace-signs and cheer from the Liberty Bell Center as the marchers walk by on Nov. 15, in Philadelphia, Pa. The protesters were greeted in each state by dozens of supportive passersby – with cheers, a honk from a car, a hug, and sometimes tears of gratitude. In others towns, marchers were greeted with the often angry, shouted refrain: “Get a job!!” The marchers’ response: “Why don’t you get me one?!” At least half of the original 21 marchers have full or part-time jobs.
Owen Johnson of North Pownal, Vt., walked barefoot. Johnson says he hasn’t been able to find shoes that fit his left foot since being hit by a car while hitch-hiking in 2010. Johnson wore a hand-made coat and hat, and weaved dreamcatchers as he marched. “I’d also like to make my own shoes,” he says.
Marchers raise their hands to vote while on a lunch break in Darby, Pa. Maxwell Citizen Kepler, of Washington D.C., says he didn’t believe in direct democracy until he joined the Mobile Occupation.: “After participating in the march’s daily GAs [General Assemblies], I realized that we may fight, and we may hate it, but we always come to a solution.”
The Mobile Occupation protesters--seen here on a highway in Chester, Pa--often marched in the dark because exhaustion caused them to walk slower than anticipated. Eric Carter, an EMT from Washington D.C. and the march’s official medic, was nervous during late-night marches. “Someone is going to get hit tonight,” he muttered as several protesters weaved over a highway’s white line in a neighborhood known for drunk driving. “I said, get over to the right!” he yelled. Some days, marches were as long as 30 miles.
The marchers stop to rest and snack at a supermarket along the route in Philadelphia. Although they bought food at the supermarket, nearly all of their meals were provided through donations from local residents, passersby and church groups. Donations included peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Halloween candy, Sangria and tobacco. The marchers had received a $3000 check from Occupy Wall Street but didn’t need to dip into those funds until the final leg of the trip.
Reports from the road: