By Olivier Knox and Jewel Samad (AFP) – Dec 31, 2011
DES MOINES, Iowa — Protesters tied to the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, angrily denouncing "corrupt" US politicians, descended Saturday on the Iowa headquarters of Republican presidential candidates.
Police arrested 10 of the demonstrators, including two teenage girls ages 14 and 16, outside Representative Michele Bachmann's Urbandale base and charged them with trespassing, organizers said.
Five more were arrested at former House speaker Newt Gingrich's command post, and three at Rick Santorum's headquarters, they said in a statement, describing the former senator as "a corporate politician hiding behind police."
Earlier, about 65 demonstrators walked from the group's base of operations -- a shuttered bar in Des Moines's East Village neighborhood -- to the statehouse to condemn what they charged is outsized corporate influence over US politics.
"Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!" the group chanted in a New Year's Eve protest just days before Iowa holds its first-in-the-nation presidential nominating vote. "This is what democracy looks like!"
"We are sick and tired of politics as usual, sick and tired of corrupt politicians who are bought and paid for," said Dutch Ruisch, identified by others as the very first "Occupy The Caucus" protester in Des Moines.
The demonstrations came as Iowa prepares to hold its first-in-the-nation nominating vote on January 3, formally kicking off the process of picking a Republican challenger to President Barack Obama in the November 2012 elections.
"Our New Year's Resolution? Revolution!" said one sign waved at the march.
Other placards included pointed references to poverty in the United States, and one man wore a Guy Fawkes mask as seen in the movie "V for Vendetta."
"I'm going through a foreclosure. The banks are absolutely corrupt," California resident Rives Grogan, 47, told AFP at the group's headquarters as he put the finishing touches on a sign that read "We Shall Overcome Greed."
Grogan, who described himself as a "pro-life pastor," said his opposition to abortion was shared by few in the movement but "we're all in agreement" that corporations are too powerful.
"Our number one issue is economic injustice," said retired nurse Katie Coyle, 57, who hails from Iowa City, Iowa. She was among those arrested at Gingrich's headquarters.
Coyle said she first embraced the movement "because I was unhappy that the jobs bills weren't passing, the ones that would have raised taxes on the rich," a reference to Democratic legislation blocked by Republicans.
Landlord and graphic artist Mike Diel, waving his "The Sheeple Are Asleeple" sign at passing cars outside the group's headquarters, said he came to Iowa from Missouri because "I lived the American dream, but my tenants are working two to three jobs to feed their kids, because jobs don't pay enough anymore."
"We have to get corporate money out of politics. We have to wake up. Corporations are trying to use their money to buy our votes," Diel, 57, told AFP.
Moments later, a man driving a large sports utility vehicle drove by, honking his horn and making an obscene gesture at the protesters.
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