DES MOINES, Iowa – An offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement met Tuesday evening to organize and plan protests in Iowa’s capitol during the week leading up to the state’s caucuses next Tuesday.
About 200 people involved in the Occupy the Caucuses movement met in East Des Moines and split up into groups by the GOP candidates they want to “occupy” this week. Protestors have said they will also camp out outside President Obama’s headquarters.
At the beginning of the session, protesters aired grievances that they wanted to raise at the candidates’ headquarters this week, and then attendees split into groups by candidate. The issues included ending the war in Afghanistan, campaign finance reform and higher education and health care costs, amongst other hot topics.
David Goodner is one of the organizers of the event, and he said protestors will go to the candidate they have “the most beef with.” Protestors will return to their temporary headquarters in East Des Moines every morning at 10 a.m. this week before they head out to sit outside the offices. Goodner explained it’s not just candidates’ office that will be targeted.
“It could be blockading the doors at Wells Fargo to try to shut down the largest mortgage lender in the country who has their headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa,” Goodner said. “It’s really up to the people in this room to decide what form their protest will take, but those are … some of the tactics that are on the table.”
In what should be relief to caucus-goers here, Occupy the Caucuses has pledged to be non-violent and not to disrupt the actual caucuses that are one week away. At the end of the event, which drew young and old and was titled the People’s Caucus, the crowd made a verbal pledge to stay nonviolent, although Goodner added they may target campaign parties in Des Moines on caucus night.
“We’re not going to interfere or interrupt the caucuses because our targets are Wall Street, big corporations, and the politicians that carry the water for them — not every day voters,” Goodner said.
“The biggest group that got a crowd to protest a candidate was actually President Obama. Goodner said a lot of the people there have “some serious issues with the Democratic party and President Obama.”
Despite the call not to disrupt the caucus process, several people spoke about how they were planning on attending next week’s caucus and just changing registration to Republican once they got there, a simple part of the caucus.
Shawn Head chose Mitt Romney’s group and will be protesting outside of his headquarters this week. Head said he picked Romney because he sees the former Massachusetts governor as a “frontrunner” and because “he seems to take the most money from Wall Street.”
Many of the protestors said they were willing to be arrested in order to stay camped out outside the candidates’ headquarters this week.
Several of the attendees said they would change over registration to Republican so they can also caucus next week. All of them said that they wanted to make sure their grievances and issues were represented, but Head acknowledged there might be others that get more worked up at the caucuses.
“There are definitely people in our neighborhood that are more outspoken and have been affected by some policies, especially from the Republican side, so I think that there could be people that are very outspoken,” Head said.
Organizers said most attendees were from Iowa and the Midwest, but Sean Glenn, a 20-year-old from Simbury, Conn. was in town for Christmas and decided to protest. She will be camped out outside Michele Bachmann’s office in Urbandale.
“I chose Bachmann because I don’t like how she represents women,” Glenn said. “I don’t like her being out here representing me and what I need.”