Hundreds of protesters from around the nation, including a man wielding a megaphone who identified himself as King of America, gathered on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to greet the returning Congress and air a multitude of grievances.
The House was welcomed back into session Tuesday by hundreds of protesters from Occupy movements nationwide calling on lawmakers to address issues ranging from campaign finance to Congressional productivity to income inequality.
Demonstrators with the Occupy Congress rally began gathering on the West Lawn of the Capitol at 9 a.m. and remained there throughout the day, leading up to an evening march from the Capitol to the Supreme Court to the White House.
At times, tensions ran high between participants and law enforcement, resulting in shouting matches and some shoving. According to Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, officers made at least four arrests.
The first arrest involved William Griffin, 60, who march organizers said was an Army veteran, on charges of “assaulting a police officer.”
Others were arrested for going into restricted areas around the Capitol and for blocking sidewalks and walkways.
“Once you lose your pensions, you’ll be joining us!” someone shouted from the crowd as officers closed in on a group of demonstrators tempting arrest.
“You’re the 99 percent, too!” said another.
The West Lawn was “home base,” where demonstrators held signs, chanted slogans and beat on drums throughout the day. As the morning rain gave way to sunshine and unseasonably high temperatures, groups formed for “teach-ins” on topics such as alternative histories of the labor movement and the fallout of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
Toward late afternoon, demonstrators took to House office buildings to engage Members. A mass gathering took place on the Independence Avenue entrance of the Rayburn House Office Building, blocking the steps and the sidewalk in front of it.
At one point, the crowd was blocking traffic; at another, it was swarming the building’s balcony, tying an Occupy DC banner to the railing.
Some protesters climbed onto the statues that flank the building’s front doors, as others tried to move metal police barricades to shut officers off from the action.
There were no arrests made at the scene though a large group of officers ran up to the balcony to chase protesters back to ground level. The officers untied the banner to a chorus of boos from the crowd below.
New House Website
Republicans promised at the start of the 112th Congress to streamline access to House electronic documents and offer those documents on a single website.
One year later, that promise has become a reality.
The House Administration Committee, which was tasked with overseeing the effort, announced Tuesday the launch of docs.house.gov. The site will contain, in XML — “open, machine-readable format” — the text of every piece of legislation the House considers on the floor.
The panel voted last month to direct the Clerk of the House to develop and maintain the website.
“Improving access to legislative information will spur greater participation and ultimately improve the legislative process,” House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) said.
Plaza Construction Closes Lanes
As the massive renovation of Union Station’s environs continues, the D.C. Department of Transportation announced a series of vehicle lane closures surrounding the station.
Until Saturday, weather permitting, the Columbus Plaza service lanes located outside the main entrance of Union Station will be closed to “allow crews to demolish and remove the concrete medians that separate the lanes in front of the station,” according to a DDOT release.
At least one lane will be kept open in each of the service lane areas for passenger pickups and drop-offs. Though barricades will be erected to “protect the traveling public,” there will be designated pedestrian areas.
The $7.8 million project to revamp Columbus Plaza and Columbus Circle, which has been planned since 2004, was launched in September. Aimed at improving access, circulation and safety, the finished product will expand pedestrian traffic islands, modify traffic signals and install bike lanes, among other things.
Rally for Arrested ‘DC 4’
Four D.C. statehood activists will have their court hearing today after being arrested for civil disobedience in December.
DC Vote Communications Director James Jones, activist Robert Wohl, shadow Senate candidate Pete Ross and Adrian Parsons, who was on a hunger strike for 27 days for D.C. statehood, were arrested Dec. 16 for blocking eastbound traffic on Independence Avenue.
They, along with nearly 70 allies, were protesting language contained in the fiscal 2012 spending bill that would bar the use of local and federal funds to pay for abortions in the District of Columbia.
A rally of their supporters will gather outside the D.C. Superior Courthouse before the hearing.