WASHINGTON – Grassroots activists will converge on McPherson Square Thursday and provide “Occupy D.C.” campers with employment opportunities, giving them an alternative to public protest.
The event – titled “Employ the 99%. Handing out job apps to the Occupiers” – is being organized on Facebook and is scheduled for noon. Participants will hand out job applications, college enrollment forms and military recruitment brochures to “Occupy D.C.” protesters. They’ll also provide a resume workshop and job search advice. The group’s goal is to “make the 1% a little bigger,” according to their Facebook page.
Local college students and recent graduates created the initiative in response to “Occupy D.C.,” a demonstration that took over downtown’s McPherson Square starting earlier this month. The District sit-in is an offshoot of New York’s “Occupy Wall Street,” a similar protest advocating social and economic equality that began Sept. 17.
“This is a counter-protest that functions as outreach,” said Aaron Buchop, an employee for a nonprofit organization he couldn’t name due to work regulations. “I hope protesters find jobs, create families, and become involved in their community while engaging in continual learning about the issues.”
Protester Steve Fryburg said he welcomes the employment demonstration with open arms. He said the Facebook group’s efforts would greatly help people at “Occupy D.C.” and its “October 2011” ally located in Freedom Plaza.
“It’s not a counter-protest, it’s great,” Fryburg said. “They’re being part of the solution by helping solve people’s employment troubles.”
Fryburg joined “October 2011” two weeks ago after hearing about the demonstration from Veterans for Peace, a military veterans’ advocacy group promoting alternatives to war. As a retired Army and police officer, he said he became involved with both organizations after seeing violence firsthand.
“We should look at how to create more peace in the world,” he said. “We don’t love our neighbors. We wouldn’t bomb them with drones then.”
Fryburg said he encountered “October 2011” online and instantly desired to join the “Occupation” movement begun Oct. 6. He’s since helped the movement’s media outreach, spreading its message of harmony and equality online. It’s a creed the Ohio native claims has similarities to Christianity.
“Jesus would be camped out here with us,” he said. “He taught that we are all part of one family and that if we harm one person, we harm everyone.”
Cameron Halket, a protester who’s attended both “Occupy D.C.” and “October 2011,” said he’s felt marginalized by government for many years. Unemployed since 2009, the former graphic artist said the “Occupy” movements offer citizens like himself confidence.
“I’ve always felt helpless to do anything and when I found this movement I realized that we can affect change,” he said. “Doing nothing was no longer an option.”
Buchop said he hopes to replicate Thursday’s event at other “Occupy” movements across the country by reaching out to other young people online. Society can only better itself, he said, through hard work and community.
“People who want to better their situation can and will,” he said. “It’s amazing what some positive thinking and willpower can accomplish. Sometimes it just takes someone who cares to make a difference.”
Fryburg said acts like Thursday’s demonstration greatly contribute towards breaking down barriers between different groups of people. He said at day’s end, Americans have more in common than not.
“When it comes down to the basics, we all want the same things,” he said. “We want jobs to provide for our families, our leaders to listen to us and the ability to influence our futures. The big thing is finding out what we have in common.”