On the road with ‘Occupy the Highway’
Occupy the Highway protesters walk near Joppa, Maryland, recently during their march from New York to Washington.
November 22nd, 2011
06:27 PM ET

On the road with ‘Occupy the Highway’

Owen Johnson’s feet are hurting, blistered and torn up. The 23-year-old from Vermont has been walking barefoot along U.S. 40, part of the “Occupy the Highway” trek between New York City’s Zuccotti Park and Washington.

(Click the audio player to hear more on this story from CNN Radio's Bob Costantini)

Johnson and traveling buddy Elliot Hartman-Russell pause to rest near Joppa, Maryland. Johnson lies in the grass, elevating his feet occasionally, while Hartman-Russell reclines on a guardrail.

“New York was getting … a little monotonous for me,” Hartman-Russell tells CNN Radio. “And I’ve never really been out on the road. It was very appealing.”

The two are part of a contingent of three dozen or so who set out from New York on November 9, just before police temporarily cleared the park and made protesters get rid of their encampments.

Hartman-Russell says if he’d been there for the raids, he would have stayed to show solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protesters. A native of Northampton, Massachusetts, he decided that going to college this fall was not for him.

“I’d like to study political science … or zoology,” he laughs. “Isn’t that the same thing?”

There is a political goal to the march, heading toward Baltimore and eventually Washington to meet up with protesters there. The Occupy the Highway walkers carry almost no signs, and a few flags, but passing drivers seem to know what the group is doing. They are taking the spirit of the mother ship of the protests on the road.

“I don’t think the political process serves us at the moment,” Hartman-Russell says.

As to why Johnson is tormenting his feet so, it’s just a matter of “getting back to the land.”

They’ve picked up some marchers along the way. Nydia Manos of Bel Air, Maryland, has a job but joined for a couple of days because she likes “the sort of grass-roots concept of trying to fix the system that’s broken.”

She grasps at finding what the Occupy movement is all about. “I feel like a lot of people in my generation have this idea that there’s some kind of really big, bad thing happening, and we’re not really sure how to fix it, but we need to draw attention to it,” she said.

Some drivers honk their support. One shouts, “Get a job!”

The group even has its own “mic check” moments to pass along information based on what lies ahead. The march changed course several times to avoid perceived right-wing strongholds in rural towns.

The goal was to get to Washington just as a congressional super committee was to make its recommendations on deficit reduction. But the committee threw in the towel Monday, unable to come to a deal.

The group will hang out with Occupy DC, as planned. Then, who knows where their feet will take them.

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soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Roadsniper

    Whats wrong with every body? So lets get on this blog and voice your opinions, these people need our support. Maybe some dont have a job. But they are out there bringing attention to a large problem.but those people out there who dont see it that way are so sight limited its ridiculous ,so these young adults are speaking for everybody including those that are so short sighted

    November 22, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Beenie with propeller

    They might as well be running in a cul-de-sac... .

    November 22, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. D is for drive

    Its too bad they are New Yorkers..if they knew how to drive they would get lost and end up in D.C...but at least their feet would not be sore... .

    November 22, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bigfoot from Spokane

    Iv'e been receiving calls from these people..told them your destination is DC.

    November 22, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. chrissy

    I agree totally roadsniper! Unfortunately most people sit around and wait for change to come but dont wanta put forth little if any effort to make it happen! Then they can b-i-t-c-h about the outcome because they didnt take a stand!

    November 22, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. marathon guy

    say what you will at least these guys are standing for what they believe!

    November 22, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. chrissy

    agreed marathon, better to do something than do nothing at all! Have you been to any of the occupy protests? I have and there were people all ages. Even off duty policemen, carrying signs. Brought tears to my eyes! Never have i been so proud!

    November 22, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. vstream

    As a Vermonter, I'm proud that these people are doing this.
    I appreciate their effort to stand up for what they believe.
    If you'll notice, they're carrying the American flag. What could
    be more fitting? Well done. Carry on!

    November 22, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. chrissy

    It is sooo nice to hear positive feedback on this issue! And you just have to know they suffer every dayum day but they carry on. You gotta applaud their diligence ya know. There is too much suffering in this once great nation. How some people justify it?

    November 23, 2011 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
  10. chrissy

    And the biggest shame of all is alot of em are war veterans but people still call em lazy hippees! Makes ya sick! Not much humanity anymore.

    November 23, 2011 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jeanine

    They've got my vote if they wanna run instead of walk.
    These are the sorts of people who are a thousand times more ethical and moral than the politicians we keep getting.
    Who among them is willing to replace the bad ones? I've got a vote sitting right here for the right person.....!

    November 23, 2011 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. banasy©

    I thoroughly support OWS and its offspring...but (to borrow chrissy's word) dayum! Walking in bare feet?
    Ouch.

    November 23, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. tapestryguy

    Very nice, Thank you
    Bob Marley Wall Canvas

    November 30, 2011 at 4:25 am | Report abuse |