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Liberal Groups Take Up Occupy Mantle in D.C.

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Well-funded liberal groups such as MoveOn.org organized protests on the Hill to push for the president’s jobs plan and an extension of unemployment insurance benefits.

“I think it’s clear that we can’t compete with the money of Wall Street and the money of the big banks to influence politicians. We don’t want to,” Smucker said in an interview. “We’re in a process of creating a new revitalized civic in this country.”

Ben Campbell, who is leading an Occupy Wall Street offshoot called Occupy Fundraisers, disagrees and said he would prefer to work within the current political system.

“There’s a little bit of a divide between the radicals and reformers. Ultimately, we’re all working toward the same goal,” Campbell said.

On Monday, Campbell protested a fundraiser for GOP presidential candidate and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) to draw attention to the role money plays in politics. He also supports a constitutional amendment introduced by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) to limit corporate influence on government.

“The movement is trying to go beyond symbolic marches to concrete actions that create change,” Campbell said. “We have no illusion that we’re going to protest and it’s all going to be fixed.”

So far, OWS has operated with open membership and the requirement of complete consensus. How long it can continue to do that remains to be seen.

The Zuccotti Park activists have more than 100 working groups tackling different issues. This week, Occupy events included a hunger strike for open spaces, a protest against a tear gas manufacturer and an effort to occupy Broadway and highlight the role of art in activism.

“You can expect if the movement takes off that there are going to be a lot of failed campaigns, but some things are going to take off,” said David Meyer, a sociology professor at the University of California, Irvine, who studies protest movements. He added that it is typical for grass-roots movements to splinter into different efforts, and it doesn’t necessarily mean their demise.

“The fact that people are going to disagree and do different things doesn’t mean it can’t be a movement,” he said.

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