The Alfalfa Club was founded in 1913 to honor the birthday of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. It did not allow African-Americans until the 1970s or women until the 1990s. For 99 years it has brought the richest and most powerful people in the United States together for an exclusive black-tie affair.
The president and the wealthiest people in America got together Saturday, January 28 for the Club’s annual party in Washington, so Occupy DC joined in. Denied entrance, occupiers held their own party in the street. The festivities involved dancing, hurling glitter at a tuxedo-clad U.S. Senator, and tasteful nudity. It was likely the more lively party of the two.
Bill Wagner, protesting outside, was upset that the club would hold this kind of party in the middle of a recession. “I don’t think the people in there are tuned in enough to know anybody out here is having any problems,” he said, “and Obama’s here because the money’s here. I think he’s addicted.”
From the start, police kept the elite well away from the general public. Roadblocks of snowplows and metal barricades gave attendees at least a block’s distance from any common people. But Occupy DC already had people inside.
Five occupiers had spent the day posing as hotel guests. They took the opportunity to scatter envelopes containing the Occupy DC declaration throughout the hotel, drop a banner reading “WE ARE THE 99% / City by city, Block by block,” and get out undetected.
Meanwhile, the crowd outside took over the main road entrance to the hotel on K St near 16th St.
“We were able to put our biggest group where we knew they’d be entering,” said Drew Veysey, one of the organizers of the action. “We thought it was going to be a car entrance, but it turned out they actually had to walk through that barricade.”
It was a lucky break for occupiers, who brought water balloons and a bucket of glitter to the party. Occupiers hurled both at the expensive-looking people in tuxedos and gowns who waited for police to open the metal barricades and let them pass. Senator Joseph Lieberman drew a personal barrage, and emerged from the crowd with wet patches of glitter stuck to his jacket and a look of outrage.
With the Alfalfa Club all inside, the group outside turned into its own party. The speaker system blasted Public Enemy and a dance party broke out. About a dozen men and women took the opportunity to go topless, seeming to ignore the winter night’s chill that had others in hats and gloves.
Tiffany, from Washington, stood on the outskirts of the crowd taking photos. “It seems like good energy. I’m excited to be here,” she said.
Soon after, hearing that there was another entrance letting cars into the hotel, the crowd marched up to the intersection of 16th St and M St, finding police on horses, but no barricades blocking their way. Occupiers made several attempts to rush through the police line and on to the hotel, but were pushed back each time.
Then, mounted police charged on the occupiers, using their horses to frighten and push people back, clearing the intersection. That done, the march returned to the original location, to await those leaving the party.
Wagner was happy with the day’s events, he said. “This is the way we apply pressure. This is the way we change things.”