Checking In With Occupy DC

Listen to occupiers Rooj Alwazir, Jason McGaughey and Justin Rodriguez on Voice of Russia Radio  

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“In a way I’m kind of happy the eviction happened,” said Rooj Alwazir, an organizer with Occupy DC, which was forcefully evicted from its K Street encampment at McPherson Square in February.

“Right now we’re shifting from just the encampment… to actually organizing with communities and learning how we can build people power,” Alwazir, 24, said last week on Voice of Russia’s Capitol Correspondent, guest-hosted by TheFightBack‘s Pete Tucker.

A member of Occupy Our Homes, an off-shoot of Occupy DC which focuses on home foreclosure defense, Alwazir discussed the case of Bertina Jones, a Prince George’s County homeowner who was slated to be evicted.

At a demonstration outside Freddie Mac’s downtown D.C. offices in February, Jones discussed the difficulties she faced in trying to reach the government-backed mortgage lending giant which held her mortgage. An hour after the protest, which was organized by Occupy Our Homes, a company spokesman said Freddie Mac was looking for a “positive resolution” to Jones’ case.

Occupiers Jason McGaughey and Justin Rodriguez also joined last week’s discussion on Occupy DC.

McGaughey, 26, hails from rural Illinois. He discussed how he came to get involved with the Occupy movement. “I heard about what was going on on Wall Street and I decided the best thing I could do would be to quit my job, move out of my apartment and come out and join the movement,” he said.

Back home McGaughey had been working with adults with disabilities. “Every year the budget would always get cut for their programs,” he said. “[I grew tired of] having to tell them in so many nice ways that their government doesn’t really care about them.”

Prior to the Occupy movement McGaughey had never been arrested, but has now been thrown in jail five times, including during a demonstration on the Brooklyn Bridge where 700 were swept up, leading to a class action lawsuit, which he’s a part of.

“[I’d] never been arrested before [Occupy Wall Street],” McGaughey said. “[I’d] never actually seen police brutality in person. Then I got to New York and within a couple days I was arrested and saw quite a few beatings. And [I’ve] seen a whole lot more since then.”

Rodriguez, 25, was with Occupy DC from its October 1 beginning. “Most of the people I know in Occupy are actually younger than me,” he said, pointing up the youthful character of the movement.

“For so long we’ve been seen as people who had to be taught what to do, people who weren’t able to do anything for ourselves. We have proven that to be wrong and proven that even though we have been systematically pushed to the side, now is our time to come out here and make a difference, not just for youth but for everybody.”

Related Stories:
Freddie Mac, “Can You Hear Me Now?”, Feb. 29, 2012
Jason McGaughey on the Occupy Movement and the Fight for the Future, Feb. 6, 2012
Justin Rodriguez on the Ongoing Occupation of K Street, Oct. 9, 2011

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