Hundreds of protesters describing themselves as tied to the Occupy movement—many of them bearing House members' voting-record information and handing out manifestos—are determined to be seen and heard on Tuesday from the muddy lawn behind barricades in front of the Capitol.
“We call on Congress to act with integrity!” chanted some demonstrators, a refrain echoed in some of the placards and signs they carried.
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Set to coincide with the House’s opening on Tuesday afternoon of its 2012 legislative year, the demonstrators were being closely monitored by Capitol police officers, working to monitor the activities on the lawn and keep them away from main walkways leading to the Capitol entrances.
As of noon, just one person was reported arrested, allegedly for trying to assault an officer, according to U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, who did not yet have the man's name.
The man, who had gray hair and a gray beard, found himself wrestled to the ground and handcuffed when officers started moving demonstrators off of a main walkway. Suddenly, some pushing ensued. “The First Amendment is our permit!” shouted some of the demonstrators, while others noted the leisurely strolling on the Capitol grounds of some tourists not far away.
For the most part, the demonstrators have remained orderly—albeit loud. By early afternoon, they were holding what was described as a “national assembly of the American Occupy movement.” Participants were trying to discuss various legislative issues. The demonstrators are planning to march at about 6 p.m. Tuesday—but are declining to specify their exact route.
At the rear of the demonstration were several tables, where everything from hot dogs to medical attention to information on the voting records of members of Congress was available.
“There are different approaches here, because Occupy is a decentralized movement,” explained Travis McArthur, 26, of Washington. He described himself as employed by Public Citizen, and he handed out an “Occupy Congress Legislative Guide” that listed various pieces of legislation along with information on why they should be supported or opposed. Included were sheets focused on individual members, displaying their photos, listing their office telephone numbers and describing their votes on such legislation as the Wall Street reform bill, the extension of Bush tax cuts, the bank bailout bill, and the health care reform act.
Copies of a so-called “Occupied Amendment” were also being handed out, described as legislative language some are hoping will be passed that would “Outlaw Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy.”