On Friday night I was covering the protest of the Americans for Prosperity conference at the Washington DC Convention Center. It started off with a march from McPherson Square, the location of the Occupation, down K Street to the convention center. The crowd of around 500 people chanted and marched around the perimeter of the complex.
Then they blocked four corners of the street with the aid of police vehicles. One of the attendees came out to ask why the cops were allowing the protesters to do this. The answer she got from police was that it wasn't illegal.
So the protesters, then thinning in numbers to maybe 200 - blocked the doors of the massive convention center (a three block-sized building). The attendees trickled out. One was reported to give the protesters the middle finger...only down near his ribcage nearly out of sight. Very brave.
Anyway, the Occupiers chanted and "occupied" most exits while some of the attendees were at pre-scheduled free screening of Atlas Shugged. (No joke, inside they have a booth set up where you can literally put on a Reagan mask and have your picture taken. If this isn't a metaphor for how the Right's odd relationship with a President who tripled the national debt and yet still raised taxes almost every year he was in office - I don't know what is.)
The worst thing to happen to the Koch-funded event attendees last night was that they had to get chanted at while walking a block to catch a cab or use the Metro inside the convention center. "If we made some rich guys use the Metro tonight - we won!" I overheard an Occupier say.
The opposite corner from where I was standing - a full block away - a silver Lexus sedan hit three protesters in the street. The reports were that he actually sped up "like he was playing chicken" according to eye witnesses. The video above is when the police let the driver go. Then the crowd became angry at the police. You can hear an Officer Walsh on the tape saying, "They shouldn't have been in the street." The Metro Police have said they released the driver because he had a green light. This contradicts the report or tweet from DC Councilman Tommy Wells who claimed the driver was apprehended blocks away and was in custody.
Was the driver a guy from the Koch conference? I don't know. He had Maryland plates. There were reports that the car exited from the convention center. I was inside the convention center earlier. Actually, the reason I'm in DC right now was to cover that conference. Amato and I had planned this months ago, we wanted to get an interview with Herman Cain back when he was just an weird sideshow instead of a weird sideshow frontrunner. Anyway, I saw no thirty-something black man in a grey hoodie with a Yankees cap inside. I could be wrong. Before the incident I did see other regular DC drivers - just out on a Friday night - barely notice the blockade - again aided by police cars. And on my way back to my hotel, my cab driver flew by the very spot where the Occupiers had been hit hours before.
The injuries are described by the Washington Post as "non-life threatening" but they were still taken away by ambulances. I'm not familiar with DC laws - but I've always been under the impression that when pedestrians are in the street they automatically have the right-of-way. I can understand the frustration of the demonstrators which led to at least two arrests last night.
Note: Amato is VERY upset with me for reporting the driver had a Yankees cap on. I told him something about journalistic integrity to disclose the WHOLE story. Yep. Yankees fan. "I know lots of people with lots of caps who wear them all the time," says Amato. Uh huh. I would have run the headline, "Yankees Fan Mows Down #OccupyDC Protesters With Car" but he'd probably fire me...