News / USA

Caucus Protesters Target Republican Candidates

As Republican presidential candidates cross the Midwestern state of Iowa before the January 3rd caucus, they are greeted by supporters and demonstrators at campaign events.  Police arrested scores during so-called Occupy the Caucus protests in the week before the nation's first event in this year's presidential election process.

Political science student Jessica Reznicek considers herself a career activist. “You really have to care about what you are doing and really being O.K. with not receiving any money in return, it is a lot of dedication and enthusiasm," she said.

Her dedication was on display outside Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann’s campaign headquarters in suburban Des Moines. “You have to go there and you have to put your voices and your bodies on the line, and make a statement wherever that candidate is and say that we are more important than him or her," she said.

Occupy the Caucus protesters traveled by bus to Bachmann’s office to protest corporate political campaign influence. When protesters ignored warnings they were trespassing, police moved in and arrested 10.

Reznicek never had a chance to air her concerns to Bachmann; the congresswoman stayed inside her campaign headquarters.  

It was the latest in a series of protests by Occupy the Caucus that ended in much the same way, protesters making their way to candidate offices, only to leave by police car. “We are just trying to open the conversation, and if that means some of my friends get arrested to get the reporters here, then that is what they will do," says  Dutch Ruisch.

Dutch Ruisch says one tactic of the Occupy movement during the Iowa caucuses is to use the increased media presence to draw politicians into debate about the protesters' issues. “I cannot afford $1,000 a plate to hear some candidates speak," he said. "Why do candidates not listen to us because we do not have the money?”

Despite the arrests on the campaign trail, Occupy the Caucus protesters say they have no intention of disrupting the January 3rd Caucus.

“We will not disrupt the caucus at all.  We respect the privilege and the right that Americans have to vote," said Ruisch.

Ruish says the anger of the Occupy movement is not solely targeted at Republicans.  They also targeted the offices of Democratic lawmakers in Iowa. “We are pretty disgusted with Obama," he said. "He promised 'hope,' he promised 'change.'  What has he done?

Ruisch says more than 1,000 people have participated in Occupy events in the past several days, and he expects more protesters in Des Moines before Republican voters gather Tuesday to choose their favorite candidate.

Kane Farabaugh

Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

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