“It’s going to encourage people to say, ‘Look were going to raise our voices and we have a right to free speech and we’re going to continue with this movement,’” she said. “People aren’t afraid. People are sick and tired of what has taken place in the policies in this country.”
Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairman Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) urged caution, however, warning that striking back with violence could undermine the movement.
“They have every right to protest. They even have a right to peacefully engage in civil disobedience,” Ellison said. “I urge them to not strike back or to ever allow themselves to be characterized as violent, and I urge the police to exercise restraint.”
Rep. John Garamendi agreed, saying the whole thing needs to be “toned down” on both sides.
“The point of the demonstrations across the country is right on target, but it does not help the cause when it gets out of hand,” the California Democrat said. “So the whole thing needs to be toned down. Go with the issues and protest peacefully.”
In New York City, the epicenter of the protests, police have allowed 24-hour encampments in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, a privately owned property with no curfew.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D), who represents the area, said he supports the movement but added that there must be a way to reconcile the rights of the protesters with those of nearby residents to keep the situation from getting out of hand.
“As long as the protesters observe basic sanitation rules, don’t have bongo drumming at 2 in the morning and conduct themselves so that local residents are OK, then there should be no problem,” Nadler said.
He said he’s working on a mutual code of conduct for protesters and residents with local officials but added that the protesters must self-enforce to a certain extent.
“One of the problems has been that the Occupy Wall Street movement is not cohesive in the sense that you can reach an agreement,” he said. “They’re going to have to have the cohesion so that if an agreement is reached to protect the rights of people in the area, that agreement is enforced. Hopefully it will be enforced by the protesters themselves, but if not, it’s possible that the police will have to do that. But I hope it doesn’t come to that.”
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.