Washington, DC is now becoming a focus point for Occupy-related protests now that other cities have cracked down on the tent cities and the criminal mischief associated with the Occupy movement. Other than frigid Boston, Washington is the only City that continues to allow the Occupy tent cities to continue without disruption.
We received a most interesting briefing this morning from law enforcement regarding a series of significant protests that are planned for Washington next week. I will not mention their names or agency because I appreciate their candor, if not their message. At present there is a week of activities that are being spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union ("SEIU"), the AFL-CIO, the Occupy movement, and other left-wing organizations. It is expected that there will be people bussed in from around the country and the event ("Take Back the Capital") is all over the internet. The unions are usually capable of turning out a sizable crowd when they put their minds to it, and this is intended to be a big event. They begin arriving on Monday.
Here is their agenda for the week that is being advertised on the Internet:
* Monday, December 5 - Set up the People's Camp. After checking in, pitching tents, and creating signs and banners, an orientation, dinner, and entertainment will be hosted by OurDC, a local organization of unemployed and underemployed 99%-ers.
* Tuesday, December 6 - Take Back the People's House. From the People's Action Center, we'll form groups and fan out to congressional offices, remind members of Congress that the Capitol is the People's House, and demand that they represent the 99%.
* Wednesday, December 7- "Make Wall Street Pay." We'll swarm K Street, the lobbying center for the world's most powerful corporations, and track down those responsible for crashing the economy and causing millions of 99%ers to lose their jobs and homes-while failing to pay their fair share of taxes.
* Thursday, December 8 - Demand Justice for the 99%. The day's events will include multiple speak-outs throughout the Capitol, a national prayer vigil with unemployed folks and faith leaders, a mass march on key congressional leaders, and a lively jubilee action.
* Friday, December 9 - Take It Home. We'll pack it up and head home, where we need to keep the pressure on our representatives in Congress to do right by the 99%.
The key day is Wednesday, December 7th when the group plans to "swarm" from K Street 14th Street to 22nd Street throughout the day. They intend to enter the buildings (and possibly the tenant spaces) of buildings containing lobbying firms, law firms which lobby or represent corporate interests, Buildings housing healthcare tenants, oil tenants, insurance tenants, bank tenants, or drug company tenants would also be targets of this group. In other words, just about every building on K Street is a potential target. Further, I would not rely on the logistics parameters supplied by the protest organizers. If you have a building with tenants in the target groups anywhere in the City, I would take the same precautions that we are suggesting for the K street buildings. In fact, regardless of your tenant base, if your facility is in the vicinity of the protesters, they may enter your building if they cannot get into their buildings of choice and you present an easier target.
Area CEOs of target companies, or high profile lobbyists, should not be surprised to have protestors show up at their homes in large numbers. That is a favorite tactic of some of the unions that are participating in this event.
Protective Measures: The police have made it clear that their goal is to avoid taking action that will get them sued, even if it means letting the protestors disrupt K Street for the day, and even if building lobbies are invaded by chanting protestors. If things are being broken, and the police actually see the person doing the breaking, an arrest may be made. Otherwise, the protestors in your lobby will be told to leave within a certain period of time, they will be given three warnings during that period of time, and when the time expires, they will be told that they are now subject to arrest if they don't leave. However, that doesn't mean that any arrests will actually take place unless a top official gives the green light. The hope is that the protestors will eventually leave on their own, even if your tenants are virtual captives until that happens. I will let you, the readers, form their own opinion on the adequacy of the police department's tactical plan for protecting your private property and your tenants.
1) Based on that information, we recommend that property managers contact their access control companies as soon as possible to arrange to have buildings go into lockdown status earlier in the day (possibly 3 PM) as early as Monday and leave the building in lockdown status all day on Wednesday. That early lockdown could remain in place through Friday. There is no guarantee that some of the demonstrators will not jump the gun and conduct their own rogue operations prior to, or after, Wednesday, but they tend to do these things late in the afternoon. Your security/concierge/building staff should also be prepared to lock your doors on very short notice if protesters are in the vicinity.
2) If your elevators are equipped with card readers or key fobs, we also recommend that the elevators be locked down for the entire week and that all visitors be confirmed by the tenants and/or met in the lobby and escorted upstairs by a tenant representative. These protest groups are known to have protestors dress in business attire in order to get into building lobbies and onto tenant floors. An elevator lockdown would keep them from being able to get onto tenant floors if they do manage to get inside the building.
3) Parking garages can be a point of serious vulnerability because protestors can run down to lower levels, enter the building which may have locked its front doors, and make their way to the lobby from the lower levels. Monday would be a good day to conduct an assessment of the garage vulnerability issue.
4) The concerns applicable to garages also apply to loading docks. Wednesday may be a good day to keep the doors closed as much as possible and to take whatever measures your building may have at its disposal to limit entry to the lobby area from the loading dock area.
Please contact us if we can assist you with these issues.
On Thursday, a mass march is scheduled to Capitol Hill. It is expected that many of the visiting people will be staying at, or meeting at, McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza. The Thursday march will probably move down Pennsylvania Avenue in order to capture the optics of the crowd moving towards the Capitol. That means every commercial office building on Pennsylvania Avenue must be prepared for the same antics as the K Street buildings on Wednesday. If any alternative routes are announced we will get them to you.
The protestors have announced that they will pitch tents on the National Mall and other downtown parks. The Interior Department has told them that they must leave the Mall at night and take the tents with them, but time will tell if that will be enforced. Police expect new tent cities to pop up during the week and they expect that many people will remain in the DC tent cities when the week of activities end. You can already see the growth of the camp site at McPherson Square since the New York and Philadelphia sites have been shut down.
The SEIU element that is involved in this event is a more radical group than the one that represents security officers and janitors in Washington. We are reaching out to the leadership of the 32BJ union that we negotiate with to see if they can reign in their brethren who are involved in organizing the healthcare industry, but they are two different groups. Additionally, there will be so many other different groups in the mix (AFL-CIO, anarchists, "student" activists, Occupy, and union rent-a-mobs, etc) that it will be difficult for anyone to guarantee good behavior by the entire group. When they invaded a lobby a couple of weeks ago at one DC office building, the security team and building staff was spat upon and physically threatened [ed. note: I was there. That didn't happen.]. I don't expect this group to be any more genteel. In fact, I expect the intimidation factor to be ratcheted up as events unfold. It will not take long for the protestors to realize that they are going to be allowed to walk virtually wherever they want to walk, block intersections at will, and cause a major disruption of commerce and movement downtown without threat of arrest unless they go far over the line of criminal conduct and begin destroying property and/or assaulting people within the direct vision of the police. Even then, the police response is likely to be restrained. Wednesday would be a very good day to work from home if that is an option. During much of the day, simply getting a car out of a garage on K Street and trying to travel is likely to be impossible. Downtown traffic is likely to be a mess all day if the protester crowds are of even modest size.
MPD intends to issue updates during the week through the Golden Triangle and Downtown Bids. We will also pass along additional relevant information as we learn it.