Message in music on Occupiers' trek to Wall Street

Stephen C. Baldwin was among about 100 other Occupiers and musicians starting out Thursday from the Liberty Bell. They plan to arrive Wednesday in N.Y.
Stephen C. Baldwin was among about 100 other Occupiers and musicians starting out Thursday from the Liberty Bell. They plan to arrive Wednesday in N.Y. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff)
Posted: July 07, 2012

After a five-day gathering that drew about 200 members of the national Occupy movement to Philadelphia, the protesters left town Thursday for a seven-day trek to New York City.

Despite temperatures in the 90s forecast for the next four days in New Jersey, about 45 people signed up to walk the entire 99-mile route from the Liberty Bell to Wall Street, according to Daphne Carr, a graduate student from New York City who organized the march. About 100 people began the march Thursday morning.

Their goal is to arrive Wednesday at Wall Street in New York City. They will avoid the New Jersey Turnpike in favor of pedestrian-friendly streets through Trenton, Princeton, and New Brunswick. Carr said she had made arrangements for the marchers, who call themselves the Occupy Guitarmy for the musical instruments many tote, to sleep outdoors legally on each night of the trip.

Many marchers Thursday morning were unaware of the schedule; some predicted that the march would take as long as 12 days. Though most carried little but a guitar or drum or tambourine and a water bottle, they said they were not worried about provisions or safety during the trip.

"I'm not concerned at all," said Jay Kidd, 19. He made a much longer trek, he said, from Richmond to Miami earlier in the year with fellow Occupiers. "You get to interact with yourself and how you take to the elements."

Mary Hath Spokane, 65 - comparing the Occupy movement to Thomas Jefferson's vision of America and the civil rights protests she participated in as a college student - said she wasn't worried about walking to New York in the heat. After all, she has already withstood wintry, 90 m.p.h. winds while camping out at Occupy Olympia in Washington.

Carr said there would be three meals a day and plenty of water, plus precautionary measures to handle the heat. An air-conditioned van is riding alongside the chain of walkers, five medics are traveling with them, and 10-minute rest stops every hour are planned.

The group solicits donations online.

Most of the Occupy marchers ended the night at Snipes Farm in Morrisville, Bucks County. The farm was supposed to be the final destination for Day Two, but the group could not find an appropriate place in Northeast Philadelphia, said Batya Weinbaum, 60, of Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Weinbaum drove a van with the march and helped to shuttle marchers from State Road, near the city's prisons, to the farm. About 80 of the original group settled at the farm.

While pausing and while walking, the Occupiers plan to be singing. From the moment they began their walk at Sixth and Chestnut Streets, small groups frequently broke into song. Strumming her guitar at Third and Market, Carr joked, "My fingers already hurt."

She added, "Music is a really great way to engage people. It's much more fun than just protesting."

Jason McGaughey said he hoped to attract the attention of working people who were not free to walk along the road for a week as the band of musical marchers passed through their cities. Asked why he was marching, he said, "Things are so messed up in this country that they're going to take years to fix."

Theo Talcott is taking a week off from his organic farming in Vermont to march. "I hope we make some kind of artistic statement about making a better world," he said. "I hope it's really fun. I hope I don't get run over."

Contact Julie Zauzmer

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