Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Occupied K Street

Yesterday, after doing some church stuff in the morning and some housekeeping in the later morning, I seized my one open window during the day, hopped on the bike and motored downtown.

The day was drab and overcast, although not too chilly, and the hum into town on Fifty was smooth and devoid of traffic.

From my inside-the-Beltway suburb, it's an easy run to the center of DC on a motorcycle.  I loafed over the Roosevelt bridge, did a few zigs and zags, and found myself cruising my target street.

K Street.

It's a bustling central artery in the Northwest quadrant of our nation's capital, and the symbolic heart of lobbying in America.  It's lined with shining office buildings that all abruptly end at the same height.  Regulations, dontcha know, but the net effect isn't unpleasant, as you don't get that dizzying concrete canyon feeling.   At about one thirty in the post meridian, K Street was a purposeful whirl of humanity, and most of that humanity was on foot.   Trim young business-casual and suited professionals moved in clusters, coming back from lunch or finally getting outside.   Tall lawyerly types walked and talked intently into their smartphones.

The sidewalks were crowded with folks on foot, as they are on most days in DC.  DC is a place where you walk, unless you enjoy sitting, burning carbon, and amassing adipose cells in your posterior.  It's why DC workers are...well...not quite most Americans.  That was true at the intersection of K and Connecticut, where Farragut Park was filled with fit lunching wonks and office workers.   It was true at the intersection of K and 16th, where the stream of humanity crossing in front of my bike was young and on the go.  The sense was of energy, of dynamism, of purpose.  It's that way every day.

I reached the bike lot at K and Franklin Park, and lo and behold, DC had left a parking meter unrepaired.  Schweet.  Gotta love that free city parking.  I stowed my helmet and my gear, and doubled back to McPherson Square, where I wanted to get a feel for the Occupy K Street protests.

At McPherson Square, things were a mid-day than they were on the rest of K Street.  The encampment took up the Northwestern section of the Square.  It was a modest smattering of tents and a sprawl of sleeping gear, occupying a space roughly equivalent to the back yard of my unassuming suburban home.  In that space, small clusters of protestors sat or moved about quietly.  

J. Birdseye McPherson
Around the statue of Major General James Birdseye McPherson, a circlet of handmade cardboard signs sat out on display.   Circling the circlet were a few passersby, their smartphones out, taking pictures, taking video.  I joined the dance for a few minutes, carefully perusing the signs, and taking my own pictures.

No one spoke to me.  No one was minding the display.

Moving a few paces to the southwest, a little klatch of protestors were having a meeting of some sort.  All were sitting, talking quietly and earnestly, and as I watched, they communed inaudibly within their closed circle.  Apparently, one of their collectively determined meeting protocols was "jazz hands," which must have meant something for group process.   "We have a quorum?"  "I second the motion?"  "May I go to the bathroom?"  I couldn't tell.

I meandered back into the encampment, and had to work hard to resist the temptation to tidy up a bit.  It's hard to turn off that parent switch, but I managed.  I looked around for a center, or a place to get information.  There wasn't anything or anyone I could see.  Just cardboard signs.

Having determined that the one person I might have known there was not present, I drifted about for a bit.  Someone shouted that food was available at the mess tent.  Animated chatter came from table filled with laptops.  A middle-aged woman talked flutteringly with a passing lawyer-type, asserting her strong desire to try both Bush senior and Dubya for war crimes.  He seemed gently bemused.   A barefoot young woman sat in a softly speaking group, and absent-mindedly picked her toes.  A boy, perhaps six or seven, padded past in footie pajamas, holding a sign.  A TV crew that apparently came from some land where the women are all blonde drifted about, talking with people.

Across the street, catty-corner to the Northwest, a cluster of a half-dozen young, entirely African American DC cops milled about.   They talked animatedly, and were clearly there to manage the demonstration...but nothing was happening, and they seemed bored and listless.

After half an hour, I'd seen all I could see.  I moved back up K Street, through a trickle of pedestrians.  I tossed a leg over my bike, and rolled on out of there, through the busy streets of Northwest, out to 395, and home.