Yesterday we learned that the SEIU, a union with heavy ties to President Obama, is paying $4,000 per month for office space in downtown Washington D.C. What is the office space for? Occupiers to organize and meet. President Obama supports Occupy Wall Street. So yesterday, I decided to take a trip down to the Occupy offices and check it out for myself. The office is located on 16th and L and is on the 6th floor.
(Don't you just love the open hands on the right?)
I walked up to the door, took a picture of it and asked if there was someone in there I could talk to. I was then brought into the front room of the office where I was greeted with a "Jesus Christ!" when I told them I was a reporter. I received the same reaction when they found out I was a conservative. Regardless, they seemed willing to talk. I was taken into another smaller room, where the conversation began. I noticed an Apple corporation computer on the desk to the left and a Dell corporation computer to my right. "Ironic" I thought, considering Occupy claims to hate corporations, but whatever. In case you're wondering, people in the office looked clean, a step up from their hygiene level back at the park.
The Occupiers were upset and felt "betrayed" by a Washington Examiner article about their new space, calling it unprofessional and inaccurate. They said SEIU is paying for their office space, but that they are in no way working for President Obama or the unions and that they absolutely refuse to be co-opted. Karina Stenquist, editor of the newspaper D.C. Mic Check, said it was unethical for Examiner reporter Aubrey Whelan to bring the SEIU's connection to President Obama into a story about their new office space, making the argument that the SEIU's connection to Obama in an election year is irrelevant. Occupiers also argued that the space lease ending on just after election day 2012 is irrelevant when I asked if they felt they would be used as political pawns.
Anyway, moving on. I talked the most with Johnny Mandracchia, who describes himself as an anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist (don't ask me what that means, just Google it.) He agreed to say on an audio recording, that violence is not smashing Starbucks' windows, "because Starbucks isn't a private business it's a corporation" or burning cop cars, but is instead simply vandalism.
Dictionary definition of violence:
vi·o·lence [vahy-uh-luhns] noun
1. swift and intense force: the violence of a storm.
2. rough or injurious physical force, action, or treatment: to die by violence.
3. an unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power, as against rights or laws: to take over a government by violence.
4. a violent act or proceeding.
5. rough or immoderate vehemence, as of feeling or language: the violence of his hatred.
Mandracchia admitted off the recording during our conversation that as long as their isn't a cop in the car, burning cop cars is okay. Regardless, Occupiers from Occupy D.C. (and around the country for that matter) haven't had any problem assaulting police officers in the past. A few months ago a police officer was smashed in the face by an occupier with a brick. Mandracchia did say he had no plans to smash windows, but also had no issue with others doing so, "That's their decision." Another woman in the room, who described her name as "someone who occupies" after admitting she has "at least six names" she uses, agreed with the violence argument.
Mandracchia also told me that he has no plans to vote because voting "doesn't matter." When I asked him what he and other occupiers were going to do instead to get their needs met he responded with, "whatever we want." Keep in mind, voting is a substitute for violence. I also asked Mandracchia if he would denounce Occupy rapes across the country, specifically close to D.C. in Baltimore and he said, "I'm not aware of any rapes in Baltimore."