The mantra of the Occupy DC protests rang out loudly and clearly through downtown Washington Thursday afternoon.
“Where are the jobs?” protesters yelled outside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“We need jobs” they shouted in front of the White House.
“Banks got bailed out, we got sold out,” they chanted while marching down K Street.
The group plans to “occupy,” or camp out in, Washington’s Freedom plaza until the government creates a serious jobs program, adds an amendment to the Constitution to take “big money” out of elections by repealing the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and investigates Wall Street bankers that were involved in the financial crisis, said protestor Peter Burr, 64.
“There are very, very few people in the United States who are not being impacted by this, and I don’t know if it will take weeks or months but gradually they are all going to speak up,” said Burr, who drove from Nashville, Tenn., to participate in Thursday’s event.
Occupy D.C. is an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement that has taken up residence in downtown New York City for the past three weeks. Both the president and vice president spoke out in solidarity with the “occupy” protestors today.
“What is the core of that protest?” asked Vice President Joe Biden at the Washington Ideas Forum. “The core is: The bargain has been breached. The core is the American people do not think the system is fair or on the level. That is the core is what you’re seeing with Wall Street.”
At a White House press conference, President Obama said the Wall Street protest “expresses the frustrations that the American people feel.”
“We had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country, all across Main Street,” Obama said. “And yet you’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on abusive practices that got us into this problem in the first place.”
As about 600 citizens marched through the streets of downtown Washington they chanted, “We are 99 percent,” as in the 99 percent of Americans who share the same amount of wealth as the top 1 percent.
“Everyone in the United States is going to wake up and realize they’re speaking about me: I don’t have a job, I don’t have health insurance, my house is in foreclosure,” said Allison Johnson, a protestor who lives in D.C. “People are going to realize ’99 percent’ is us.”
Tom Bias of Sparta, N.J., who spent two days occupying Wall Street, said the goals of both the New York and D.C. protests are the same.
“We want jobs, we want peace, we want the war money brought home, we want Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid left alone,” Bias said.
Bias is unemployed after being laid off four months shy of being able to retire and is now at risk of losing his house.
“I’m bankrupt,” he said. “And it’s not fair that I worked for 40 years and my family is now facing homelessness.”
Before heading out on the march, Jo Siepier-Gora, 71, lamented that America is “rapidly declining” and that the government is no longer meeting the needs of the people.
“Our country has been better than it is now, Siepier-Gora said. “It’s been kidnapped by the wealthy with the collusion of the government. I am here to try and change that for my children and grandchildren because the American dream is broken.”