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'Occupy Congress' Protesters Gather At Capitol

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As Congress returns from its winter recess, protesters aligned with the Occupy Wall Street movement demonstrate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 17, to decry the influence of corporate money in politics.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
As Congress returns from its winter recess, protesters aligned with the Occupy Wall Street movement demonstrate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 17, to decry the influence of corporate money in politics.

Update, 6:30 p.m.: Hundreds of Occupy protesters gathered on Capitol Hill today -- rallying against the influence of corporate money in politics. Many were hoping to speak with members of congress, and some came close.

Earlier in the day demonstrators thought they would be denied entrance to the house office buildings on Capitol Hill. As it turns out, a small handful did get inside. Dale Patterson came from Chattanooga to speak with Tennessee congressman Steven Cohen, but only spoke with his aide.

"You wonder how much is actually lip service, but at the same time being able to go in there and vent a little bit or directly bring your concerns to the representative's office is kind of a symbol of why we're here," says Patterson.

Patterson says he spent about 15 minutes with the aide who promised to relay his concerns to the congressman.

Update, 5:00 p.m.: After spending most of the afternoon in a large group on the west lawn of the capitol building, the Occupy protesters separated into smaller groups and headed to the offices of House members.

Earlier, demonstrators said they were being denied entrance to the office buildings, but a spokesperson for the Capitol police say that is not true. At 5 p.m., some of them were outside the Rayburn House Office building, but it was unclear whether any of them were able to get inside to speak to members of Congress.

Update, 4:30 p.m.: Although larger than most Occupy protests, today's crowd is smaller than expected. It focused on getting the attention of Congress. With House members returned from their winter break today, demonstrators are hoping to enter Congressional office buildings to speak with representatives, but many protestors -- including Ashley Love who traveled here from New York City --  say police told them they will not be allowed in.

"It's shameful because this is the place we're we are supposed to go and talk to our representatives, because the congress works for is; they work for the people," says Love. "We want to live in a democracy and for them to prevent us from going in these walls, they're preventing us from taking part in this democracy."

Sgt. Kimberly Schnader, spokesperson with the U.S. Capitol police, says she knows of no directive preventing any citizen from entering the buildings when they're open to the public.

Meanwhile four protestors have been arrested. Three for trespassing and one for assault.

Original Story: The U.S. House of Representatives is back in session on Capitol Hill after their winter recess, and already they are getting an earful from Occupy protesters, who are rallying at the capitol for an event they're calling "Occupy Congress."

Protesters have gathered on the West Lawn of the Capitol for what participants hope will be the largest gathering of Occupy activists from around the country. Participants plan to protest the influence of corporate money in American politics.

They say the day-long protests will be peaceful, although some may risk arrest. U.S. Capitol Police say one person has been arrested and charged with assault on a police officer.

The protest comes as the nation's capital has emerged as one of the strongest bastions of the Occupy movement, in part because the National Park Service has allowed protesters to maintain their encampments.

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