For many in the Occupy movement, Wall Street was so last year.
Congress is the new target as Occupy activists try to channel the populist energy of “the 99 percent” into tangible results.
More than 30 Occupy groups and 10,000 Facebook users are backing Tuesday’s Occupy Congress rally outside the Capitol, and they represent a growing faction within the liberal movement that says the path to reining in Wall Street runs through Capitol Hill.
“Congress is the place that we should focus,” said Natalia Abrams, a California-based activist. “I don’t think we’re ever going to get Wall Street to control its greed, but maybe we can get Congress to control their greed for them.”
That idea is drawing the movement’s focus from Manhattan to the Beltway and turning many of its activists into advocates for campaign finance reform, even as others oppose the shift toward politics.
Earlier this month, Occupy Wall Street passed a resolution supporting a constitutional amendment that states, “Corporations are not people, and money is not speech.” It marked a big step for the movement, which has a decentralized structure that has made reaching consensus difficult.
Amending the Constitution may be ambitious, but the goal gives Occupiers something concrete to rally around after the winter lull that followed their evictions from Zuccotti Park and other camps nationwide.
“I hope that this shows the country that we’re very much together and acting in unison,” Abrams said, referring to this new phase with the oft-repeated meme “Occupy 2.0.”
On the eve of the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision to deregulate corporate political spending, reform advocates see Occupy’s evolution as a way to amp up grass-roots pressure for their efforts.
“The Occupy movement is really breathing life into the drive for a Constitutional amendment,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, which is promoting a Jan. 21 event to “Occupy the Corporations.” Holman said his group has been in conversation with Occupy activists and considers that movement a “comrade in arms.”
Another group hoping to court the Occupy movement is the Move to Amend coalition, whose members include the Alliance for Democracy, National Lawyers Guild and Progressive Democrats of America. The coalition’s leaders plan to talk to Occupy rally attendees about local ballot initiatives that challenge the high court’s Citizens United decision.
“Corporate personhood and Move to Amend represent Occupy 2.0,” group spokesman David Cobb said.
Whether the Occupy crowd will work with campaign-finance advocates remains to be seen. Activists are wary of outside groups.
“We have a real concern about having people latch on to this populist movement for their political agenda,” said Mic Mell, one of the organizers of Tuesday’s Occupy Congress event. In organizing the rally, Mell said his group purposely didn’t reach out to the professional groups that have helped Occupy in the past, including labor unions and liberal organizers such as MoveOn.org and the American Dream Movement.
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