Anti-war protesters occupy Senate office building, fail to end war

C.J. Ciaramella Contributor
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Anti-war protesters loosely affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement swarmed a Capitol Hill office building Tuesday afternoon, resulting in a handful of arrests and the temporary closure of the main floor of the building.

Activists rallied in the center of the Hart Senate Office Building to protest U.S. military actions as well as corporate influence in politics. U.S. Capitol Police arrested six of the protesters and charged them with “unlawful conduct — demonstrating in a Capitol Building,” according to a police spokesperson.

The protest was part of a coordinated effort by a group of activists currently occupying Liberty Plaza near the White House in Washington, D.C.

Protesters began trickling into the Hart building around 10:45 a.m. The building — the most modern of the Capitol offices — has a large, open atrium in the center and booming acoustics.

At 11:30 a.m., the atrium erupted with shouting as the protesters belted out such slogans as “end the wars” and “we are the 99 percent” — the latter being the rallying cry of the Occupy Wall Street movement. (RELATED: Protesters plan to clog up, ‘shut down’ Capitol Hill)

Demonstrators on the third floor attempted to drop handmade banners from the balconies but were quickly corralled by police. The chanting continued for about half an hour until police began closing off the area and arresting demonstrators who would not leave.

Hart staffers ringed the balconies of the upper floors of the building to watch the events unfold below, while media milled through the crowd to catch shots of the shouting demonstrators.

The protest in Liberty Plaza is sympathetic to but distinct from the Occupy D.C. protests occurring at nearby McPherson Square. The Liberty Plaza protesters are made up of an assortment of anti-war groups and tend to skew towards the baby boomer generation.

Indeed, the majority of the Hart protesters were grey-haired and looked like they had seen their share of protests. In addition to ending the war, many of the demonstrators decried corporations.

Protester Kenneth Ashe said he had traveled from North Carolina to the protests and had been in Washington, D.C. for about a week. He was participating, he said, to stop corporate influence in government.

“The classic definition of fascism is corporatism,” Ashe said. “That’s what Mussolini said. We have fascism now.” (RELATED: DC occupiers granted four-month protest permit)

Skyler Wind, sitting next to Ashe, said she was there because “my daughter needs the right to vote, and it needs to mean something.”

“I’m not letting her grow up in a fascist state,” Wind said.

Despite the remonstrations of the protesters, the U.S did not end military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya. Nor did the Obama administration halt the use of unmanned drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. The Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba also remains open.

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