A unique pressure campaign has been playing out in Iowa, where the group Occupy Des Moines and other progressive groups briefly took over both the Obama for America and the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters, just as the media spotlight descends on the city two weeks before the caucuses.
Occupy Des Moines, in conjunction with Veterans for Peace and the community organization Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI), blockaded the entrance to OFA headquarters in Des Moines on Saturday, forcing a closure of its office. They set up tents in front of the front door, and vowed not to move, calling it “the annex” to the main Occupy Des Moines camp a few blocks away at Stewart Square. Megan Felt, an organizer with Occupy Des Moines, declared victory on Saturday. “Our goal is to disrupt business as usual until the campaigns address our concerns, and the fact that Obama’s Iowa staff chose not to open up today is a victory for our movement because we prevented them from going about their normal Saturday routine.” At the height, the action involved around 120 protesters.
They decided to occupy the front door in shifts, disrupting the campaign’s work. And they came with a list of demands here. They want the President to veto the National Defense Authorization Act and the payroll tax deal (now in serious doubt) over respective provisions that codify the indefinite military detention of non-citizen terrorist suspects and force a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days (as I’ve said before, the likely outcome of the latter measure is to deny permitting to Keystone XL). They also oppose the dropping of a millionaire’s surtax to pay for the payroll tax bill, and a provision in the omnibus spending bill that limits the number of semesters a recipient is eligible for Pell grant funding. Latino activists involved in the protests also denounced deportations “that break families apart,” and antiwar activists want military spending cut in half. So there’s a list of grievances for this Festivus season.
Today, activists left the campaign HQ, and moved into the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters. They maintain that they will refuse to leave “until Obama vetoes the National Defense Authorization Act and starts putting all the power of his office to bear on putting communities before corporations and people before profits.” So I don’t know if we can totally infer that the payroll tax veto demand has been dropped, but of course the circumstances changed on that one.
The Des Moines Register updates that eight protesters have been arrested:
Eight people affiliated with Occupy Des Moines were arrested this afternoon at the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters in Des Moines.
The eight, whose hands were zip-tied behind their backs, were placed in a police wagon and transported to Polk County jail. Each was to be charged with criminal trespassing, which is a misdemeanor. They did not resist arrest and were escorted out of the headquarters at 5661 Fleur Drive without incident.
All protesters are out of the IDP building at the moment. The reason they shifted locations was that Obama’s campaign HQ remained closed through the weekend. “They don’t want to be here to listen to us, we decided to go to the state headquarters and make them listen to us,” the DMR quoted Occupy protester Daniel Bragg as saying.
This is part of a movement known as “Occupy the Iowa Caucuses,” and I would expect several more incidents like this as we get closer to caucus day.