Occupy's 2012 Agenda: Visiting Campaign Cities

PHOTO: Newt Gingrich, pauses as an unidentified protester is confronted by security during a news conference.
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"Occupy" protest organizers say they are using the winter to hone in on specific events and presidential campaign events instead of occupying town centers and financial institutions.

Caitlin Manning, 55, an Occupy Oakland organizer, said the group has two specific goals in January. First, it plans to occupy a building by Jan. 28, saying protesters are continually being "harassed" at their outdoor encampment at Oscar Grant Plaza for "ridiculous" legal reasons.

Second, the group is planning to stop a specific grain ship from docking to a port in Longview, Wash., in January.

Unlike the Occupy the Ports campaign on Dec. 12, which caused disruption in West Coast ports such as Oakland and Seattle, Manning said the upcoming disruption is targeting a specific grain company that is "wrongfully" using nonunion labor and will call attention to the negative role the company plays in global food production.

"We will be protesting and blocking profit-making because it is a highly exploitative corporation which has affected food production and distribution around the world," she said.

Occupy protesters have voiced their concerns at several presidential campaign events, including disrupting President Obama during a speech at a high school in Manchester, N.H., on Nov. 22, and occupying one of his campaign offices in Des Moines, Iowa, over the weekend. The Occupy protesters make it clear they do not endorse any particular candidate, and they do not discriminate based on party when it comes to criticism.

"I think the typical OWS person is really upset with both parties and the whole idea of a two-party system," Pete Dutro, an Occupy Wall Street finance committee member in New York City, said. "It basically has turned into a campaign club ... not about getting things done. It's about gathering resources to get elected."

This week, protesters heckled and held protest signs addressing Republican candidate frontrunners, Mitt Romney in Littleton, N.H., and Newt Gingrich in Des Moines. The candidates are campaigning in cities ahead of the first primaries. The Iowa caucus is on Jan. 3 and the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 10.

Dutro said protesters will broach campaign finance reform more frequently.

Ryan Hirsch, a self-described "concerned citizen" active in the Occupy New Hampshire movement, said Occupy the New Hampshire Primary will be a four-day event starting Jan. 6 that will include discussions, general assemblies and parades, to bring attention to a wide range of issues.

"I can't say there's any one particular issue other than the fact that the media is going to be there, so it's a great time for people to get the message out," he said. Plus, it will encourage people to register to vote. "Our main goal is to try to get more people more involved. They don't even have to get involved in the election, but just pay attention -- to the economy, war, civil rights."

Nick Espinosa, 25, an Occupy Minneapolis organizer, said the Occupy movement is "bigger than elections." They are still focusing on the "greed" of financial institutions and corporations that sparked Occupy Wall Street on Sept. 17.

"It's bigger than politics as we know it. It's a way to re-frame the way we look at these issues and the values we hold as a society," he said. "I hope to be part of a movement that pushes politicians to serve the interests of the people and not the corporations."

Espinosa also supports the Occupy Our Homes campaign, in which protesters stay in homes whose owners are fighting foreclosure. He said about eight people from Occupy Minneapolis are planning to visit Iowa next weekend to highlight issues like unfair foreclosures at candidates' events.

Dutro said Occupy Wall Street is increasingly coordinating with other occupations and hopes to align more with certain Tea Party groups.

"We know we have a lot in common with Tea Party people. I'm very progressive in certain ways and in other ways I'm really fiscally conservative. But I don't necessarily agree with Ron Paul people either," Dutro said. "We're just getting more organized and basically trying to take this winter to prepare for the spring, so we can come out louder and bigger again."

ABC News' Susan Archer, Josh Haskell, Sarah Kunin and Shushannah Walshe contributed to this story.

 
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