Occupy protesters rally against Congress at Capitol

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 17, 2012 12:58 PM
Occupy protesters rally against Congress at Capitol

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Demonstrators from the Occupy movement rallied outside the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday to protest against the influence of money on Congress.

In a sign of renewed vigor for the Occupy movement, which staged protests in many U.S. cities last fall, several hundred protesters gathered on the Capitol's West Front Lawn to greet members of Congress returning from a holiday break with a day of rallies and protests they said would include attempts to occupy lawmakers' offices.

Occupy protesters from around the country who gathered on the rain-soaked lawn carried signs saying, "Face it liberals, the Dems sold us out," "Congress for sale" and "Congress is not for sale."

"It's important to let people know we're not going to take it anymore. People are really mad about the way things are going and we want Congress to understand that," said protester James Cullen, a 30-year-old unemployed social worker from Greenbelt, Maryland.

The morning demonstration was peaceful. Police said one protester had been arrested for assaulting a police officer.

The protest against Congress comes as a record 84 percent of Americans say they disapprove of the way Washington lawmakers are doing their job, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll published on Monday.

Democrats and Republicans fought all last year over the best way to control the U.S. debt and budget deficit as the parties tried to position themselves for the 2012 elections.

"Corporations and government have been so inextricably linked that it's not a true democracy anymore, and people have to realize that," said David, 16, a high school student from New Haven, Connecticut, who gave only his first name.

The leaderless Occupy movement burst onto the national scene in September at Wall Street in New York with its focus on income inequality and the perceived greed of the rich and powerful.

The movement succeeded in changing the national political conversation but it has weakened with winter weather and perhaps protest fatigue. Police have cleared Occupy encampments in New York, Los Angeles and other big cities.

The Washington Occupy movement has been among the most durable, in part because the National Park Service has allowed protesters to keep their encampments in two public squares near the White House.

District of Columbia officials are starting to show signs of impatience. Mayor Vincent Gray urged the National Park Service last week to remove protesters from one of the sites, McPherson Square, citing a rat infestation and other health concerns.

(Reporting By Ian Simpson. Editing by Peter Bohan.)