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Lonely And Cold, Iowa 'Occupiers' Seem Ill-Equipped To Take Over Caucus

Will the Iowa Republican caucuses next Tuesday be flooded with the state's version of Occupy Wall Street activists?

The rumor has been out there for weeks, and the state's voting laws suggest it could be possible: though only registered Republicans may participate, anyone can register for the party on caucus night and vote.

But, as Mark Twain might say, the rumor of an OWS caucus takeover is greatly exaggerated. Or at least that's the sense we got Wednesday during a visit to the Occupy encampment in Iowa City, one of the state's most liberal cities.

"It's going to take a while for this thing to gather momentum," said Tyler Paintin, 42, peering out from one of about 20 other empty tents pitched near the gazebo in the center of College Green park.

Paintin is homeless, as were the two other Occupiers at the camp in the cold late morning.

"A lot of people didn't realize how cold it could get," he said.

The Occupy Iowa City encampment, Paintin said, has had a generally friendly relationship with the city, home of University of Iowa, and its officials and police department. The gazebo, which serves as the meeting area, featured a sign friendly sign from the College Green Historic District thanking the campers for "being good neighbors."

There were no "how to" instructions posted for the caucuses.

Those in the movement generally share the view that there is little differentiation between politicians, Paintin says, "that they're all lying and there's no such thing as a civil servant anymore."

But the Occupy activists want so many different things, he says — from the political to the social — that without a leader, effecting change is a challenge.

To paraphrase another American original, Will Rogers, the activists aren't members of an organized party, they are Occupiers.

And willing to poke fun at their own reality.

Here's what one hand-lettered sign posted in the gazebo said: "IF YOU WANT TO MAKE GOD LAUGH, MAKE A PLAN."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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