Protesters sit in at Congressional offices

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 06, 2011 5:34 PM
Protesters sit in at Congressional offices

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Protesters brought their message about alleged economic unfairness to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, sitting in or outside several Senate and House offices.

Anti-Wall Street Occupy DC protesters joined demonstrators from other groups in legislative office buildings, and police arrested one protester at the office of U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler, a Missouri Republican, for unlawful entry, a Capitol Police spokeswoman said.

Hartzler won election last year with the support of the conservative "tea party" movement.

"We've been monitoring activity all over the Hill," the police spokeswoman said.

The offices of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, and House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, were among the targets.

A Boehner spokeswoman said: "We respect their right to voice their opinions ... The Speaker understands the American people want a government that listens to their concerns and works together to help create a better environment for job growth."

Protester numbers at the offices varied from a few to scores. Several groups have said they planned actions in Washington throughout this week, as part of a "Take Back the Capitol" effort that says the country's rich and large corporations and banks have too much wealth and power.

That echoes the complaints of the Occupy movement, which originated in New York and has seen protests around the country in recent months, but is under increased pressure from local government moves to dismantle encampments in public places.

NEW ORLEANS EVICTION

One of the latest such operations came in New Orleans, where police conducted a peaceful, pre-dawn eviction of the Occupy New Orleans site on Tuesday.

Dozens of people had been staying in a public park near City Hall for two months. One person refused to leave and was arrested without incident, police said.

New Orleans Police Chief Ronal Serpas said the city gave the group repeated notifications an eviction would occur.

"People were clear about what was expected," he said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Serpas said protesters are welcome to return to Duncan Plaza to voice their opinions during the park's open hours.

Speaking to a WWL radio audience on Tuesday morning, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said while he has "absolutely no problem" with individuals exercising their constitutional rights, "it's our job to keep the place safe."

Landrieu said city and state laws prohibit "housing structures" being erected on public property. He and Serpas cited health hazards including broken glass and human excrement in the park.

In Washington, protesters who had camped out in a public square have gotten a federal court order barring U.S. Park Police from carrying out a surprise eviction, the group said on its website.

The order bars an eviction without 24-hour notice ahead of a January 31 hearing, Occupy DC said in a statement. Police arrested 31 people on Sunday when occupiers tried to put up a wooden structure in the park, and tore down the building.

Officials in Hartford, Connecticut, said on Tuesday Occupy protesters there needed to leave their encampment by evening or face arrest.

Police chief Daryl Roberts said he did not expect trouble but planned to order officers to take appropriate corrective measures if protesters stay after the deadline.

On Monday, police in other cities extended moves aimed at keeping anti-Wall street protesters from camping, arresting 11 people in Orlando and San Diego after a weekend clampdown.

In Oregon, Portland police arrested 19 people at the weekend who were trying to occupy a downtown park. One man was charged with criminal mischief and trespassing for climbing onto the roof of City Hall.

About 100 Occupy protesters face possible eviction from their encampment at Seattle Central Community College, after a judge last week ruled such a displacement can go forward.

In Los Angeles, where last week police arrested nearly 300 demonstrators when police cleared an Occupy camp, Good Jobs LA, a non-profit group, was calling on the city to evaluate banks that do business with the city on such issues as community investment.

The Occupy movement began in a Manhattan park in New York, but protesters were cleared from that site two weeks ago.

(Additional reporting by Zach Howard; Writing by Corrie MacLaggan and Jerry Norton; Editing by Greg McCune)