Protesters ‘occupy’ lawmakers’ Washington offices
WASHINGTON — Around 1,000 demonstrators assembled at US lawmakers’ offices on Thursday as part of a “Take Back the Capitol,” action targeting corporate America’s influence in Washington’s corridors of power.
Protesters — many of them labor-union activists who support the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York in September — aimed to highlight that 13.3 million people are unemployed in the United States, and urge lawmakers to shun cuts to unemployment benefits and focus on job creation.
“You have the moral imperative to support those who are slipping,” rabbi Erica Asch told demonstrators, standing alongside priests during an ecumenical ceremony near the US Capitol.
Protesters then chanted slogans under the windows of House Speaker John Boehner’s office. Around 100 of them headed inside and reached the speaker’s closed door, but they left five minutes later without incident.
The protesters staged sit-ins at other lawmakers’ offices in an attempt to secure meetings with their elected representatives, centered on jobs and the economy.
Dozens of pro-labor groups and unions, including the American Dream Movement, US Action, SEI and AFL-CIO, launched “Take Back the Capitol” events on Tuesday before Congress, the White House and K Street, epicenter of the US capital’s influential and lucrative lobbying industry.
On Wednesday, the demonstrators managed to shut down several blocks of K Street and dozens were arrested.
Washington is home to two separate open-ended protest encampments, both near the White House, inspired by Occupy Wall Street and focused on highlighting the damaging effect of social inequality and corporate influence on US politics.
Joining them this week has been a self-styled People’s Camp on the National Mall, made up of about 15 tents — in clear view of the Capitol — erected by protesters from different corners of the United States.
The protests come as President Barack Obama presses Congress to pass a $447 billion employment package, which has been previously knocked back by Republican representatives.