Protesters participating at a "speak-in" directly in front of the White House fences cited everything from police brutality to foreign affairs as their reasons for attending. Several protesters who spoke to the Switch cited NSA surveillance programs as the reason they came out. And signs held by protesters identified many other causes, including antinuclear views and advocacy against genetically modified food.
Many attendees claimed affiliation with the Occupy movement. Justin Wedes, who organized the speak-in but did not help organized the entire event, was one of the primary media spokespersons for Occupy Wall Street — including a Stephen Colbert segment. Before the speak-in, he warned protesters they were risking arrest if they stayed in front of the White House for too long, saying, "if you are standing here, it may be likely you are arrested," and urging them to make the decision if they wanted to remain for an arrest "for when the police do come."
Wedes told the Switch he had no specific knowledge on whether the police might arrest protesters. "It's just hearsay, it's all rumor — there's no organizers to liaise with so I'm just basing it off my previous experience," he said.
There were a number of police cars and officers standing at a distance from the protest while the Switch was on the scene near the White House. One protester wryly noted that "the police are protesting the protest peacefully." However, a later tweet from the OccupyWallSt Twitter account appears to show an arrest being made.
The National Park Police confirmed to the Switch that they made one arrest on a charge of assault on a police officer at 11:30 a.m. in Lafayette Square. The Capitol Police also confirmed that they affected two arrests for crossing a police line at the West side of the Capitol later in the day.
At Lafayette Square, a participant who said he was formerly of Occupy DC was carrying a large stuffed gorilla on his back. He identified himself as a journalist who went by "Gonzo" after the Hunter S. Thompson-style and called the protest "a beautiful thing." He then joined in a chant of "no bombs, no tanks, we'll burn your f--cking banks," before explaining that "the idea is that we need to get together and our movement is actually about love."
More protesters gathered around a small stage in Lafayette Square across the street from the White House, where musical acts and speakers addressed a varied number of grievances against the government and the economic system.
Many protesters in both groups did have masks. By far the most popular mask was the Guy Fawkes mask from the movie "V for Vendetta." Many protesters did not seem aware that Time Warner made a profit on each of the masks sold. But despite the focus on masks, many protesters did not use them to obscure their faces. And those who didn't undoubtedly got their faces caught upon many, many cameras — a few from news organizations, but many more in the hands of their fellow protesters who seemed intent on documenting the day. At one point, a protester urged "cameras out — full coverage."
Here's what my camera caught: