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Opposing conservative group counters Occupy DC

By Greg Seaby, CNN
updated 8:49 PM EST, Mon February 13, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Conservative counterprotesters plan daily rallies at the site of Occupy DC's camp
  • "The Occupiers are fundamentally undemocratic," says a counterprotester
  • The counterprotesters and Occupy activists find they have common ground
  • "Every revolution begins with common ground," says an Occupy member

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In what is being called "Occupy Occupy DC," conservative counterprotesters Monday held the first of what they say will be daily rallies at the site of the Occupy encampment at Washington's Freedom Plaza.

The "take back the park" protest is being organized by two Washington-based conservative think tanks -- the National Center for Public Policy Research and FreedomWorks.

Their goal is to make the case for "economic freedom," but do so in a way that is within the law, according to a statement from National Center for Public Policy Research.

Chairman Amy Ridenour said, "The Occupiers are fundamentally undemocratic. They want the public to agree to whatever it is they want, even though they can't or won't articulate it, or else they'll commit crimes, infest cities with rats, cost police overtime and refuse to go away."

The small group of conservative activists gathered amid freezing temperatures at noon in Washington for what they claimed was the first legally permitted counterprotest to the Occupy movement.

"We have the same First Amendment rights as the Occupiers and any legitimate petitioner has for access to our nation's public sites," said National Center Executive Director David W. Almasi.

Occupy protesters and affiliated groups have been camped in the park two blocks from the White House since October.

The counterprotest consisted of about a dozen activists who carried signs and spoke from a bullhorn.

Their message focused on themes of smaller government and free market values, but they found common ground with Occupiers.

"Occupiers, we have some common themes together. We both don't like bailouts. We opposed the Wall Street bailouts. We also opposed the auto bailouts," said Tom Borelli a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research.

A handful of Occupy protesters emerged from their tattered tents to speak with the conservative activists.

"We think this is beautiful. Every revolution begins with common ground," said an Occupy protester who only identified himself as James.

"Take back the park" organizers said they plan to continue their daily rally during the lunch hour through the middle of March.

National Park Service spokeswoman Carol Johnson confirmed the counterprotest permit is for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily through March 15.

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