Rep. Keith Ellison talks with protesters as he arrives to speak at the Campaign for America's Future "Jobs, Not Cuts" rally at the Capitol on Wednesday.
Liberals have been racing to embrace the Occupy Wall Street protests as a left-leaning response to the tea party, but the protesters aren’t exactly returning the favor.
As President Barack Obama praised the movement that approached his doorstep today, some of the protesters outside the White House held signs calling him a war criminal and brandished baby dolls covered in red paint to signify children who have been killed in drone attacks.
“The protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works,” Obama told reporters during a news conference.
His comments came on the heels of widespread support from labor unions, Members of Congress and liberal advocacy groups for the Wall Street protests against corporate greed that were inspired by the Arab Spring.
“I’m so proud to see the Occupy Wall Street movement standing up to this rampant corporate greed and peacefully participating in our democracy,” Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Wednesday. Protesters on Saturday began a sustained camp in Washington, D.C., called Occupy DC, and similar protests are springing up in cities around the country.
At a solidarity rally Wednesday organized by the American Dream Movement, a coalition of liberal advocacy groups and labor unions that traditionally support Democrats, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) told Roll Call that he would be honored to take part in the Occupy efforts.
“They’re upset, they’re frustrated and they don’t have a four-point plan, and they don’t have a detailed plan. So what, you know? What they need is to be listened to,” Ellison said.
Lawmakers have portrayed the protests as validation of their job-creation policies and calls to raise corporate taxes. Not necessarily so, the protesters say. Some of them identify as anarchists and reject the current government — and both parties — as corrupt.
Peter Baldwin, who traveled from Maine to participate in today’s Occupy DC event, said the current system of government should be dissolved. The musical rally originally organized by October 2011, an anti-war group, was overtaken by the Occupy movement, fast spreading to D.C. and other parts of the country. In many cities, liberals have been organizing events with the Occupy name without coordinating with the Wall Street activists.
“This will probably take apart the political system. We’ll start all over again. It has to happen,” Baldwin said, adding that lawmakers are “all bought and paid for.”
The Freedom Plaza protest drew more centrist Democrats, too. Tim Hall, a 20-year-old student in D.C., said he supports Obama and plans to vote for him again.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.