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Campus Notebook: Six Arrested as Protesters Fill Hart Building Atrium

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
A protester talks to Capitol Police officers as they arrest her in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building on Tuesday. More than 100 protesters filled the area.

Six protesters were arrested Tuesday in the Hart Senate Office Building as part of the Occupy DC protest, a spinoff of the recent Wall Street demonstrations.

More than 100 protesters crowded into the building, shutting down work there for more than an hour and filling the atrium with their chants and banners.

Protesters with Occupy DC — joined by the Stop the Machine movement, which was marking the 10-year anniversary of the war in Afghanistan — arrived shortly before 11:30 a.m.

They flooded the atrium and lined the several levels overlooking the ground floor, chanting, “We are the 99 percent” and “Tax the rich, end the war.” They waved banners reading “End the War” and “People for the People.”

Capitol Police officers warned they would be arrested if they failed to cease the commotion, and when a number of them did not comply, they were removed.

Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said the protesters were taken for processing at headquarters on charges of “unlawful conduct” and “demonstrating in a Capitol building.”

After the arrests were made and the atrium was cleared, police officers closed the space to everyone except credentialed staff. The atrium reopened around
12:20 p.m.

Occupy DC is an offshoot of the ongoing Occupy Wall Street movement, which has taken up residence in lower New York City to protest economic disparity and has inspired a number of movements around the country. Occupy DC will be taking over Freedom Plaza for the next four months, organizers said.

Stop the Machine, also known as the October 2011 Movement, has joined Occupy DC in many of its efforts so far, including Tuesday’s protest in the Capitol.

While a few Members of Congress, such as Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), have praised the movement, Republican and Democratic leaders in the House struggled to nail down their positions Tuesday.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor appeared to walk back his earlier charges that the Occupy Wall Street protesters were “mobs,” saying their frustrations are “understandable,” while misplaced.

But the Virginia Republican — who called the movement “growing mobs occupying Wall Street and other cities across our country” at Friday’s Values Voter Summit — remained critical of Democrats’ embrace of the popular movement.

“Of course people are justifiably upset” with the nation’s direction, Cantor said during his weekly meeting with reporters. “The actions and statements of elected leaders in this town condoning the pitting of one American against the other is not helpful.”

“We have elected leaders stirring the pot, if you will,” he added.

Cantor also insisted that protesters’ anger is misplaced, while arguing that the tea party’s target — the government — was legitimately to blame for the nation’s economic woes.

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