Protests against corporate power in the United States took root in Washington on Thursday, with hundreds of people occupying Freedom Plaza in the city center to demand progressive reform.
The “Stop the Machine” rally – midway between the Capitol and the White House – echoed the demands of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York that Thursday drew more than 5,000 people as well as labor union support.
“The poor are no longer patient,” said one of the speakers, Ben Manski, a Green Party activist from Wisconsin, from a stage decorated with the “We the People” preamble of the U.S. constitution.
“It took us long enough, but we are no longer patient,” Manski told the crowd, a mix of young people and veterans of protest movements of past decades who descended on the square with placards, drums and sleeping bags.
The protest – which has a four-day permit – got underway just as President Barack Obama called the Wall Street protests an expression of the “frustration” that Americans are feeling.
“I think people are frustrated, and the protestors are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works,” he told reporters at the White House.
Meanwhile, 11 protestors were arrested Thursday in the biggest anti Wall Street-style demonstration yet in Los Angeles, with some 500 people rallying in the city’s downtown district, police said.
Six men and five women were detained for trespassing by sitting down in the lobby of the Bank of America, said a police spokesman.
The protest was led by the ReFund California campaign, which lobbies for banks to keep families in homes, pay their fair share of taxes and help rebuild poor neighborhoods.