Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Occupy Congress: Protesters gather outside Capitol Hill

MSNBC reports: Thousands of Occupy protesters from across the country are expected to converge on Capitol Hill today to take their message to the halls of Congress, in what some observers say is the movement’s overdue moment to engage the American political system.

Protesters already have set up camps in public spaces, taken over foreclosed homes and shut down key shipping ports, but for the most part they have shunned the political system, viewing it as beyond salvation.

The congressional protest – which falls on the movement's four-month mark and the beginning of a new session of Congress – appears to represent a strategic shift aimed at winning support of the many Americans disillusioned with the legislative branch.

“Often the complaint that I hear is that, 'you guys are targeting the wrong people.' And so we have that discussion about you know whether or not Wall Street is the source of the problem or really Congress is," said Aaron Bornstein, a 31-year-old neuroscientist and member of the Occupy Wall Street Think Tank, which will hold discussions at the event.

“They're really two sides of the same coin,” he continued. ”You can't have the corruptive influence without both the people who are doing the corrupting and the people who are corrupted.”

Protesters have traveled from far-flung towns and cities such as Walla Walla, Wash., Greensboro, N.C., and San Diego by plane, car, bus and train. They have made posters and information cards – some about controversial legislation, such as the National Defense Authorization Act and the online piracy bills, SOPA and PIPA; and the voting records of members of Congress as well as their net worth. Some intend to camp at one of the two Occupy sites in D.C.

"Most of the people in our group ... are Social Security folks," said Norm Osterman, a 68-year-old retired teacher from Walla Walla. He said the important issues for him and his fellow retirees are saving Medicare, taxing the rich and ending corporate personhood. "So we’ve seen things come and go. And going to D.C. to complain seems like the only sane thing to do right now."

A Gallup poll in mid-November showed congressional job approval hovering at 13% and the firm noted it was "low among all Americans, regardless of their political party identification." Gallup noted that 2011 was on "track to be the lowest annual rating of Congress in Gallup's history."

Updates can be found at the Huffington Post.

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