One of the organizers of a weekend protest that netted nearly three dozen arrests outside the Iowa Capitol building predicted Monday that the nation is witnessing the makings of a major social movement against financial greed and corruption in this country.
“People want fundamental and structural reform in the way our country operates. Until that happens, I don’t think anybody’s satisfied,” said David Goodner, a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Occupy Des Moines organizer who was the first of 30 adults arrested for refusing to leave the state Capitol grounds after 11 p.m. Sunday, when a curfew took effect. Two juveniles also were taken into custody by Iowa State Patrol troopers and Des Moines police.
“What we’re seeing is the very beginnings of a mass social movement that could eventually turn out millions of people onto the streets. I think this movement is in its infancy. I think it’s very fragile and tenuous, but I think the potential is there that this is going into a truly mass movement where millions of people turn out on the streets, and that’s very, very exciting. People are coming out of the woodwork,” he said.
“I think it sends a message that Iowans are unhappy with the corporate rule on Wall Street and the corporate rule on Capitol Hill and the corporate rule on Terrace Hill,” he added.
Goodner said Sunday’s Occupy Des Moines protest on the west side of the Statehouse was organized via Facebook and mushroomed into nearly 500 people who attempted to set up an around-the-clock occupation on the Capitol grounds. Law enforcement officers told those still gathered late Sunday that they would have to leave or face arrest, and all but those taken into custody complied with the order.
On Monday, Gov. Terry Branstad defended Iowa State Patrol officers who arrested the demonstrators, saying the troopers “acted in an appropriate and restrained manner” in removing people who had a right to protest but not to “camp out overnight” on state property.
“My feeling is I think it’s alright to have a demonstration here at the Capitol, but it’s not meant to be a place to camp out overnight,” Branstad said in responding to reporters’ questions at his weekly news conference Monday.
“First and foremost, people in this country have a right to demonstrate and express their viewpoints,” he said. “However, we do have permits and requirements. This was 11 o’clock at night and they did not have a permit to stay.”
Goodner said a number of the protesters who were booked on simple misdemeanor trespassing charges and held at the Polk County Jail had scraped arms and knees, a black eye or two and one demonstrators was recovering from the effects of pepper spray.
“I certainly heard a lot of complaints about, I wouldn’t say police brutality, but I would say excessive force,” he said. “There were a lot of people that had complaints about how rough they were treated.”
The governor said state troopers, along with Des Moines police, acted properly in protecting the public safety and enforcing permit requirements.
The protesters were part of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that has targeted corporate greed.
Given the high rates of unemployment, Branstad cautioned “about casting blame and attacking people who want to invest and create jobs.”
“I’m very concerned about not sending the wrong signals to the decision makers in business,” the governor said. “I’m trying to assure them that in Iowa we’re open for business, we’re committed to bringing more business and jobs here and this is going to be a great place to locate. We want to do all we can in a constructive way to create jobs.”
Goodner said Occupy Des Moines members planned to regroup this week and discuss possible future actions.
“We’re going to be back. That’s my message to the governor is we’ll be back. This is not over by any means,” he said.
“You’re not going to be able to repress this movement into oblivion. Repressing this kind of social movement is only going to make it grow, it’s only going to increase the public sympathy for it and it’s only going to increase the media attention on it,” Goodner added. “I think people are fed up with the corrosive influence of big money and politics, I think they’re fed up with an economy that is not set up to work for everybody, and I think they’re sick of public policy that always benefits corporations at the expense of everyday people. At its heart, that’s what I think this movement is about.”