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Take Back the Capitol protests at lawmakers' offices

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 12:22 PM EST, Wed December 7, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Organizers say protesters will take to K Street on Wednesday
  • Organizers say sit-ins are under way at several lawmakers' offices
  • One protester tells CNN he's been unemployed for 24 months
  • The movement's official website links to a major union

Washington (CNN) -- Dozens of protesters staged sit-ins in front of lawmakers' offices Tuesday and several hundred more camped out on the National Mall as part of a new movement calling itself Take Back the Capitol.

U.S. Capitol Police said one person was arrested for unlawful entry at the office of Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Missouri.

Borrowing language from the Occupy movement and drawing demonstrators "from Occupy sites from coast to coast," the movement says its goal is to affect congressional legislation.

"For far too long, Congress has been catering to the 1% instead of representing the 99%," the movement says on its website, 99indc.org. Protesters will push Congress to renew unemployment insurance and will focus on "other important budget and tax measures," the website says.

"Now more than ever, Congress needs to see us and hear us."

The group is calling its setup The People's Camp.

Organizers said a protest Wednesday on K Street will broadcast the message, "it's time for the 1% to stop interfering with our democracy."

Groups from different states went to lawmakers' offices Tuesday.

About a dozen people were conducting what they called a sit-in outside the office of House Speaker John Boehner. One of them, John Reat from Ohio -- the state Boehner represents -- told CNN, "I've been unemployed for 24 months, and that's why I'm here. And we're not leaving until we talk to the speaker, or they close the building, whichever comes first."

About 25 people visited the office of Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland. He spoke to the group outside his office and told them he sympathizes with the unemployed.

That group also went to a conference room outside the office of another Maryland Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer, and spoke to his aides.

"I hear you loud and clear," a staffer for Hoyer told the group, assuring them, "We'll take that back to the congressman."

One group of protesters said they planned to conduct a sit-in at the office of Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Republican whip.

About 20 people went to Kyl's office saying they wanted a forum to be heard. "All of Arizona is in the dark. We don't know what he's thinking," one said. "We'll stay until he hears us."

Donna Stebbins of Phoenix told CNN the group had not been able to make an appointment to meet with Kyl about President Barack Obama's jobs bill.

Stebbins said she and her husband lost their jobs about 18 months ago.

"Our world has fallen apart," she said. "We lost everything we saved. All of our dreams, the American dream, are gone."

Denee Rodriguez, a former teacher, said her husband is in a union and is fighting to keep bargaining and other rights.

"You take those rights away from us, then we're not a worker anymore," said Rodriguez. "We're an indentured servant."

The Surprise, Arizona, resident said her children were forced to drop out of college because they could not afford the tuition.

Axel Bello, a veteran from Phoenix, said soldiers are making sacrifices to benefit America's thirst for oil and corporations.

Many of the protesters gathering Tuesday in Washington were older than the largely young crowds at many Occupy events.

Occupy standoff ends in DC
Inside an Occupy planning meeting

The protesters include union members.

Take Back the Capitol is, in part, an outgrowth of the movement to protect collective bargaining that started in Wisconsin and Ohio.

The American Dream Movement organized the event, with funding from many sources, including MoveOn.org and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The movement says thousands of people signed up to join the protest, being organized "by a wide variety of community, labor, Occupy, and other groups around the country."

The official website links to SEIU.org, which says SEIU is the fastest-growing union in North America.

"We're making congressional office visits all this week to make Congress listen to #the99%," SEIU tweeted Tuesday.

The group tweeted about demonstrators going to offices of Sens. Joe Lieberman, Scott Brown, Marco Rubio and other lawmakers.

The event continues through Friday.

CNN's Josh Levs, Eric Fiegel, Laurie Ure and Stacey Samuel contributed to this report.

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