Occupy Des Moines Steps Onto the Political Stage
We’ve all seen the dramatic coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. What started at Zuccotti Park in Manhattan spread to cities across America. While OWS focused on income inequality and the power of money in politics as a corrupting influence, a frequent criticism of the movement is that it stands little chance of affecting change if it doesn’t work within the political process.
The NewsHour spent some time talking to members of the Occupy Des Moines movement about their plans to get engaged in Iowa’s caucus process, or at least to participate in the political theater surrounding the first voting event in the 2012 presidential election.
Throughout the week preceding the caucuses, Occupy Des Moines staged several “occupations” of Republican presidential candidates’ campaign headquarters, as well as the Democratic Party’s building. Some of these demonstrations consisted of Occupy members showing up and demanding an audience with the candidate or the campaign, and on a few occasions protesters were arrested.
On Saturday 10 people, including two minors, were arrested outside of Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign headquarters in Urbandale, Iowa. The NewsHour was there.
Regina Zilbermints of the Des Moines Register provides this reporting on their actions this week, including some background on Frank Cordaro, the main voice in our video above:
The local protesters, primarily interested in what they believe are income inequalities, include people attending their first protests and those experienced in such actions.
This week, as presidential candidates rushed from one event to another, members of the local Occupy movement showed up at banks and campaign headquarters as they tried to get their message out. Some, including Occupy leaders, were arrested for trespassing.
Frank Cordaro trained many of them. The former priest has been active in anti-war protests for decades, even before he left the priesthood in 2003 after 18 years.
He helped start the Catholic Worker community in Des Moines and lives in one of the houses. He’s been arrested several times and refuses to pay his fines out of solidarity with those who can’t.
Will Occupy’s actions translate into any concrete electoral outcome in 2012 or years to come, or is it just a protest movement that gains attention and little else?
We did talk to some Iowans who were critical of the movement off camera. A woman at a bar near the Bachmann headquarters said she thought the protesters should get jobs. Nicholas Valadez of Des Moines told us: “I don’t totally understand it. I feel like they…have to make a point and I don’t totally understand their point.”