Police have arrested more than a dozen Occupy protesters in Iowa who are targeting Democrats and Republicans in advance of the state's presidential caucuses next week.
Five protesters were arrested outside the campaign headquarters of Ron Paul, and 12 more were taken into custody at the Democratic Party headquarters in Des Moines. The demonstrations are part of an Occupy the Caucuses effort launched this week, and protesters have promised to interrupt other Republican candidates on Friday.
Targeting the Democratic and Republican campaign headquarters in Iowa is a strategic mistake for Occupy protesters, undermining the movement's message and playing straight into the hands of Occupy's outspoken critics.
For months, critics have railed against the movement for failing to devise a unified message and develop a platform of concrete demands. As they transition from demonstrating against Wall Street with their "99% vs. 1% message" to protesting against the 2012 presidential candidates, Occupy protesters have lost their focus and are lending credence to these critiques.
Occupiers at Paul's campaign headquarters were protesting his proposal to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency if elected. At the Democratic Party's offices, protesters demanded that President Barack Obama put a stop to home foreclosures, turn down campaign donations from Wall Street, and end indefinite detentions of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
The original, noble aim of the Occupy movement was to call attention to the growing gap between rich and poor and the increasing corporate influence over government. Expanding the scope of the message to include everything from the EPA to Guantanamo Bay detracts from this core purpose.
Moreover, protesting against every candidate and party across-the-board sends the signal that the Occupy movement rejects altogether the possibility of working within the political system to create change. Thus, these kinds of protests push the movement further to the fringe.
Iowa Democratic Party Executive Director Norm Sterzenbach said that occupying the party's offices was unacceptable: "Not only does it interfere with the important work that our volunteers and staff do to engage Iowans in the political process, by physically blocking our staff from entering or exiting the building sets a very dangerous precedent."
I agree. The Iowa caucuses represent an important chance for voters to put democracy into practice, make their voices heard, and select the GOP nominee that best represents their interests. The Occupy movement should embrace the importance of voting as a way to put the right leaders in Washington, rather than trying to overthrow our entire democratic system.
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