Political Protests Now Seem to Capitalize on 'Occupy' Brand

PHOTO: Protesters from Occupy DC march past the Washington Convention Center during a demonstration against the billionaire conservative donor Koch brothers and Americans for Prosperity, Washington, DC, Nov. 4, 2011.
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Illuminated by flashing blue police car lights, the wool-capped, fleece-clad, ragtag crowd of protesters sat in the middle of the intersection -- dark silhouettes against the brightly lit, gleaming-white Walter E. Washington Convention Center, blocks away from the White House.

At least a few hundred had gathered Friday night to protest in front of the convention center, where Americans for Prosperity, a political advocacy group founded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, was hosting a gala.

On the surface, the "Occupy the Kochs: Guerilla Drive-In" event looked like any other "Occupy" movement protest against the proverbial 1 percent of the population who hold the nation's wealth.

But a confederation of long-established progressive political advocacy groups -- the Campaign for America's Future, Campaign for Community Change, Common Cause, Health Care for America Now and the aptly named Other 98% -- were behind Friday's protest.

"This was the first time that there was something like that, where a bunch of groups put together this guerilla drive-in and 'Occupy' people marched out, which we were super happy with," said Alex Lawson, an organizer for the Other 98%.

It was the group's second "drive-in," staged like an outdoor movie-theater, with videos projected onto building exteriors. The first was held in New York, at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater.

Although he attended Friday night's event, 26-year-old Matt Patterson, who has been with the Occupy DC movement from the beginning and is part of the movement's media committee, rejected the notion that Occupy DC was part of, or driven by any more established progressive organization.

"[Occupy DC] is fiercely independent and is associated with no other leader, person or organization. Other groups may try to steal the branding, but that does not in any way imply that we endorse them," Patterson told ABC News.

He said there had been an intense debate within the Occupy DC movement about whether to accept sleeping bags from the biggger, more established MoveOn movement, fearing that it could compromise its independence.

"From my experience, almost no one at Occupy DC is strongly affiliated with either party and has a strong distrust of an organization that may be a Democratic-front group. The Democratic Party is largely corporate-controlled ... and neither the Democratic Party nor the associated progressive groups have succeed[ed] at delivering for the American people for the last 10 years," Patterson said.

Others who attended Friday's Drive-In protest seemed unaware that it was organized by some of the nation's most powerful progressive political advocacy groups. Common Cause, for example, according to its audited financial statement, had total assets for FY2011 of more than $3 million.

Protester Meghan Gabriel said she was at the D.C. intersection Friday night as part of the "Occupy K Street" movement.

"We want to make it clear we're occupying the center of power in D.C.," she told ABC News. In an inadvertent twist of irony, Health Care for America Now and Campaign for America's Future, two of the Drive-In organizers, are also located on K Street.

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