It’s not an undertaking for the faint of heart.
More than 40 Occupy protesters marching 240 miles over 14 days from New York to Washington, DC, have neared their destination, said organizer Michael Glazer, a 26-year-old unemployed and homeless actor from Chicago.
Ranging in age from 18 to over 50 years old, they’ve walked under the rain and endured minor ailments, such as shin splints, blisters, weight loss, colds and even a minor run-in with a car, to achieve a few goals: spread the word about the movement, liaise with different occupations, and to send a message to Congress that it can’t put off dealing with the nation’s fiscal problems, Glazer said as they marched the last remaining miles to their final stop of McPherson Square – home of the Occupy DC encampment.
“The purpose was, one, to spread consensus-based decision making to local communities so people can feel empowered to make decisions for themselves instead of letting … a pretty broken representative government do it for them,” he said, noting the big aim "was to protest the supercommittee which, you know, is essentially a big giant debacle … (they’re) not dealing with problems now, that’s not great leadership, they’re just doing the easy thing.”
Styling themselves after the freedom riders of the Civil Rights movement, their march has been marked by highs, such as warm receptions at Occupy camps in Baltimore and Philadelphia, and an emotional moment when a woman passing by the group said seeing them made her feel she could win her battle against breast cancer.
But they have had some lows, too, with some hecklers calling them “communists” and “Russians.” They also got into arguments with newcomers to the march – about 20 joined along the way -- who wanted to reach their resting place without holding the planned general assemblies that are a key part of the movement.
“This was set up to be a pretty grueling march,” he said, as other marchers chanted “All day, all week, Occupy Wall Street.” “We figured it out, but it took a while for people to come around to understand that … It’s a leaderless movement, you know, nobody is a leader on the march.”
They also were en route when the eviction of the flagship Occupy Wall Street encampment took place early on Nov. 17.
Glazer said he watched in horror as the events unfolded on livestream.
“We felt kind of guilty for being out on the road but we knew … that we had to keep doing what we were doing,” he added.
They walked 31.5 miles on Monday trying to get to DC ahead of the supercommittee’s announcement that it had failed to reach a deficit-reduction deal. They had originally planned to arrive Tuesday, before the Wednesday midnight deadline for the committee to complete its work.
“We didn’t expect (it) to work in the first place because it was set up to fail. They didn’t give us any reason to think that they were going to make it work,” he said.
Though the march was trying, Glazer said they were looking ahead to a larger march in the spring. In the meantime, they had increased awareness of the Occupy movement and proved “a lot of naysayers wrong."
“It proves that rain can’t hold us back from sending our message out there and having our voices be heard. It proves that distance can’t do that. It proves that physical injury, physical exhaustion can’t do it … and that ultimately, this isn’t some fad that’s starting to fade away at the end of 2011. This is just something that’s here to stay.”