WASHINGTON (AP) — Several dozen protesters upset about what they call corporate greed and the excessive influence of money in politics were arrested Wednesday after shutting down K Street, home to many major lobbying firms, in a demonstration that snarled mid-day traffic in the nation’s capital.
The arrests came as demonstrators from across the country converged on K Street for a march that included participants from Occupy Wall Street encampments as well as other groups — including unions– sympathetic to their message about income inequality.
A group of 40 or so protesters draped in rain gear were carried into police vans after lying down in the middle of a busy intersection and ignoring orders to move. Their supporters on the sidewalk chanted, “This is what democracy looks like!” and “We are the 99 percent” and then jeered and yelled at officers as they began arresting demonstrators.
Earlier, 11 protesters were separately arrested and charged with obstructing a public highway.
The march was diffuse and spread across blocks, making it difficult to gauge the precise size of the crowd. But organizers said they expected several thousand people in Washington this week for a week of activism, including sit-ins Tuesday at congressional offices and a vigil for the jobless on Thursday. The demonstration Wednesday created a commuting headache downtown, as police shut down neighboring streets and cars lined up waiting for protesters to pass. Demonstrators set up tents on K Street NW near McPherson Square, the site of the Occupy DC encampment.
On Wednesday, two men in suits who said they worked for a nearby bank watched the procession. They demurred when one of the demonstrators asked their opinions on the protesters’ cause. Some buildings along K Street took precautions by adding extra security guards amid warnings that the protesters planned to enter certain firms and companies.
A group of protesters from Pennsylvania chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” assembled briefly but peacefully Wednesday outside a downtown Wells Fargo location.
One demonstrator, Teresa Law, 50, of Springfield, Ohio, said she came to protest against corporate America and because jobs that the government promised would be created have not been created.
“I’ve nothing against the rich. I’ve something against a greedy man,” Law said. She added, “Corporate America has taken over the government.”
Michelle Boyle, 41, a nurse from Pittsburgh, said she came with two busloads of demonstrators. She said her mother-in-law had lost her small-business job and her health insurance, and that she died soon after. She said it was unfair that executives at companies that have laid off workers have received tax breaks and bonuses.
“My husband was raised by his mother, I was raised by my parents, to believe in a can-do America,” she said. Boyle added, “I have a lot of hope in America and I have a lot of hope and faith — I have to — for my daughters and their future.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)