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Operation Take Back

By Jerry Waxman

Marching on K Street at 16th

Take back your mink. Take back your pearls.

What made you think that I was one of those girls?

Tuesday, Dec. 6. They are coming from all corners of 46 states. It started yesterday. The groups from Florida left on Monday at various times. The Philadelphia contingent came in early this afternoon. Boston, Wisconsin and many others are still arriving. The Central Florida group, thirteen strong, arrived at 9:00 Tuesday after 16 hours on the road in a van packed like a can of sardines. We had to stop every couple of hours just to shift body positions because we were so tightly packed. Why, I ask myself, does this septuagenarian body have to subject itself to the indignities suffered on the ride as well as roughing it in the rain in a tent and a sleeping bag? I’m not sure of the answer yet but the experience so far has been great, plus I’m none the worse for wear. So, let’s just say that it was important to experience the feeling.

Take Back the Capitol is not an occupation; It is an action sponsored by various groups with the lead sponsor being the SEIU. The group that left from Tampa is with the Florida Consumer Action Network. The purpose of all these actions is to bring to the attention of Congress the importance of their participating in the creation of meaningful employment (I hate the term jobs) and the extension of unemployment benefits without cutting funds from necessary programs such as Medicare. Delegations visited many of the congressional office to speak to their particular senators and representatives. They spoke mostly to their staffers. There was one incident in Missouri Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler’s (R-MO4) office where there was a constituent arrested for refusing to leave before he talked to her. A delegation from Oregon visited John Boehner’s office and were met with five Capitol Police ordering them out or else. Similar incidents happened throughout the Capitol building all day. 150 members of the Florida delegation went to Senator Marco Rubio’s office and were offered a glass of water but little else. Sure, they talked to a couple of staffers who were pleasant and said nothing in some of the most creative ways imaginable, but Rubio, coward that he is, never left his personal space to even acknowledge them. So far, we’ve not heard of any Republican legislator actually meeting face to face with their constituents while some Democratic lawmakers did meet constituents. A delegation from Minnesota could not get in to see Michelle Bachmann yet Keith Ellison came out of his office and gave them significant time. At 5:00 PM it was time for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony and a huge contingent was amassing to go. Our group was standing outside the food tent conversing with several occupiers from all over. One twenty-something young lady who has been visiting many different occupations (with no visible means of support) overheard me say that I was pitching my tent at McPherson and asked if she could share the tent with me. It was obvious by her sweet tone and body language what she meant and I was flattered by it. A much younger, more hormonally charged me would already have had the tent pegs in the ground as I was saying yes. The older and wiser me, not wanting to outright refuse her, looking at Billy, one of our traveling group, said as diplomatically as possible, “I need to check with my tent mate. ”She said, “That’s okay, I love threesomes” to which I replied “That’s cool, but Billy doesn’t; he wants me all to himself.” It worked and I didn’t see her again. By the way, Billy is gay. Also, we had all been pre-booked into a hotel and there was no way I was pitching a tent in the dark while it was raining.

Take back the gown, the gloves and the hat.

I may be down, but I’m not flat as all that.

The Occupation got its turn at 9:00 PM. While the Occupation is not the reason for Take Back the Capitol, many members of occupations all over the country were in Washington for the event. The first ever National General Assembly was held at the base of the Washington monument with a crowd of several hundred participating. People who spoke came from as far away as Hawaii. Here are several videos featuring occupiers from Oakland, Washington DC, Charleston W. VA., Chicago, Duluth, Minn.,

Houston,Tex., Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, and Madison, Wisconsin. I met up with the young man from Kansas City who had been arrested. He claimed to have been treated well by the Capitol police and that he was falsely arrested for trespassing when the sign on Hartzler’s door clearly read “Please Come In.”

I thought that each expensive gift you arranged was a token of your esteem

But when I think of what you want in return, it all seems a horrible dream….EEEEEK!

Wednesday, Dec 7. It started out raining and hasn’t stopped yet. It’s also getting colder. The mall looks like a giant mud wrestling ring. I wonder if the groundskeepers enjoy their work. This morning I did not go with the group. I decided to revisit the Marco Rubio’s offices. I took the shuttle bus to Union Station where it’s just a short walk to the Capitol building. Before my sojourn I decided to look around this elegant relic from the past. It’s a throwback to the time of elegant travel by rail with shops and kiosks that provide the traveler and tourist with everything they need; elegant and prole food services as well as jewelry, clothing and knick knacks. I needed an umbrella so I went to a souvenir stand and picked up one with the White House trademark on it. “Don’t buy that one” said the cute as a button clerk who looked and sounded like Butterfly McQueen.” That one doesn’t hold up! “Here, buy this one,” handing me one with the Smithsonian logos all over it. “This one is much better made, and if you’re a veteran I’ll give you a discount.” How could I resist a pitch like that?

There were significantly less people at Marco Rubio’s office than there were Tuesday, but this crowd from One Miami was not giving up. I spoke briefly with organizer Jose Suarez as he explained that Rubio just doesn’t care about his constituents and only serves special interests. As we were speaking, magnificently coiffed tailored suits and skirts galore were gaining access to the inner sanctum and shortly thereafter leaving as if on schedule to their next clients and the office staff couldn’t be more pleasant to them while at the same time condescending to the not so elegantly dressed Miami folks.

“That’s enough of watching K Streeters ply their trade” thought I, and after a brief but pleasant visit to Bill Nelson’s office where he did say “Hi” to me,  it was time to head over to the K Street protest march, and that’s a very long walk from the Hart Building (so I took a taxi-but don’t tell anyone).

By the time the marchers reached 16th Street they numbered well over 1000 bodies, shutting down traffic and effectively paralyzing the whole area. A group of 16 locked arms behind the marching banners and refused to budge literally volunteering to be arrested. Throughout all this the rain constantly poured down, and the temperature continued to drop. Peoples clothing and feet were literally soaked to the bone yet they continued to go on marching and protesting. Several more arrests were made including two from our traveling group, Billy and Ashley, who were arrested at the Supreme Court Wednesday evening. In all over 60 people were arrested. Also on the same evening several 99ers mic checked a fund raiser for Newt Gingrich at the Willard Hotel. They were eventually ejected by security guards.

Thursday was sunny and it warmed up slightly in the morning. The soupy mud from Wednesday had coagulated into brown pancake makeup, but at least our feet were dry. The big action today was the march on John Boehner’s office. This first video shows the march from the tent city to the Capitol Park. This next video shows the marchers arriving at the park with members of the AFL-CIO handing out flowers. This short video has the marchers singing while occupying. 99 people, representing the 99% were selected to lead the march. John Boehner never appeared and the Capitol Police told everybody to leave. A whole group of marchers entered Boehner’s office and refused to leave until he came out. Jennifer Carpenter from Rochester, Minn. 35 and unemployed with a huge college debt was one of the protesters who refused to leave, however her bus back to Minnesota was leaving at 3:00 with or without her so she had a difficult choice.

After the march Jesse Jackson paid a visit and we all had an opportunity to shake hands an briefly speak to him. Here’s a poor quality video from my phone of most of his speech. My regular video camera wasn’t working. After lunch people started to pack up and leave the mall. There were some other actions going on, but my group wanted to get some sightseeing in before we returned to Florida. We also had had no contact with Billy or Ashley and were not aware that they had been arrested until later in the day. I did have a delightful conversation with a photojournalist named Jeff Malet, who is a Philadelphia native like me and a fellow Huffington Post blogger. I also spoke with my new friend Gordy Carpenter, Jennifer’s father and a retired high school science teacher about helping Jennifer get a job with people I know who would love to have a franchise in Minnesota.

Our group agreed to meet at the food tent at 6:00 and leave after dinner, assuming that our jailbirds were free. They appeared at 7:00, however their personal things had not been released yet so we had to wait for them as well as Jay, who’s mission was to get as many members of congress to sign on to a resolution to revive the Civilian Conservation Corps. He visited over 100 congressional offices and got a lot of supportive lip service from staffers. He was able to speak with Betty Castor (D) Tampa and Marcy Kaptur (D) Ohio who were solidly behind the idea. The only negative feedback was from Bill Young, his own congressman. By 9:30 we were all ready to go, but our group leader, Deb was a little miffed at having to pick up Jay. The trip home was long and mostly uneventful, yet a bond now exists between us and the thousands of participants, whom, despite their personal agendas agree that things must change.

So, take back your mink, from whence it came,

And tell them to HOLLANDERIZE it for some other dame! © Frank Loesser

*Author’s note- some of the videos and the K Street photo were supplied to me by a fellow blogger and new friend, David Safier of the Blog for Arizona. My camera broke down and he graciously allowed me to use his photos and videos.

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