Cold and rain did not deter the Occupy movement Tuesday, as a few hundred protesters headed to the Capitol for the House of Representatives’ first day back in session after winter recess.
“I am here to occupy Congress and to tell them I am mad as hell and I will not take it no more!” said Trisha from Martinsville, Va., who would only give her first name. Martinsville County has the highest unemployment rate in Virginia - 15.6 percent in November 2011.
Some protesters got extra inspiration from the Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebrations this week, and saw a connection between the Occupy protests and the civil rights movement.
“We have the same philosophies of non-violence and direct action,” said Denz Widener from New Haven, Conn.
Many protesters traveled all day to be a part of the demonstration. Mike from Sarasota, Fla.„ who gave only his first name, took a train for 21 hours to be here.
“I am freezing but I would not miss this for the world,” said Mike, who slept in a rain-soaked tent Monday night in McPherson Square, one of two Occupy encampments near the White House.
Protesters came to express a variety of views, and had the signs and fliers to show it. “Crime pays for banks and frackers,” read one yellow flier that was widely distributed. “Fracking” refers to a method of extracting oil and gas that some people see as risky.
Protester Shams Harper, a student and restaurant worker from Norwich, N.Y., came to speak out against the National Defense Authorization Act. The NDAA, signed by President Obama on Dec. 31, is controversial because it allows for the indefinite detention of people, including American citizens, suspected of terrorism.
“I feel like our system doesn’t allow for people to be truly represented,” Mr. Harper said, “so the system, in my view, is flawed.”
Congress is “not there to protect people anymore,” said another protester, Kate Benerin, who works on issues pertaining to coal mining in the U.S. “They are there to protect the corporate interests that got them there. This is the protest of all protests.”
Many of the protesters said they just wanted to be heard. Christopher Horner traveled from Knoxville, Tenn., on an overnight bus with his wife and young daughter. “We’re American citizens,” he said, “and we’re trying to stand up and voice our opinion that things are not going the way they’re supposed to be going.”
— Amethyst Tate
PHOTO: Occupy Congress protesters bore signs playing off the controversial “Citizens United v Federal Election Commission decision that allowed the creation of so-called “Super PACs,” which allow for unlimited financial expenditures on political campaigns so long as the Super PAC does not coordinate with any candidate. (Amethyst Tate/The Christian Science Monitor.)