Protesters Cause Disturbance, Arrests in Rayburn

Posted October 13, 2011 at 11:02am

For the second time this week, protesters with the Occupy DC and Stop the Machine movements have shut down a Congressional office building.

Around 10 a.m. today, dozens of the anti-war demonstrators gathered in the Rayburn Building to disrupt a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey were testifying.

Seven demonstrators were removed from the room and arrested on charges of disrupting Congress, said Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider. One additional protestor was charged with simple assault.

A 21-year-old Iraq War veteran struggled violently in the hallway outside the hearing room, fighting against the several officers who tried to hold him down.

“Up to one million Iraqis!” he screamed, referring to the number citizens who have been killed there since the U.S. invaded in 2003.

A 63-year-old woman whose husband used to work in the Office of Transparency and Accountability in Iraq was also removed from the hearing room, and she held her fingers in a peace sign to spectators.

Police officers quickly surrounded the entrance leading out onto the Rayburn Horseshoe, and ordered a brief halt to security screenings for those seeking to enter the premises. They blocked off the hallway running in front of the hearing room, even barring a staffer looking to return to his desk from getting through.

“If you continue to yell, you will be subject to arrest. This is your last warning,” shouted one officer through a bullhorn. “This is a working building. You are disrupting work here.”

More than a dozen demonstrators stood singing softly the protest song, “We Shall Not Be Moved,” hoping the police officers would let them into the hearing room.

“They’re talking about more wars in there,” said protester Xan Joi. “We’re sick of the wars.”

Occupy DC is an offshoot of the ongoing Occupy Wall Street movement, which has taken up residence in lower Manhattan to protest economic disparity and has inspired a number of movements around the country. Occupy DC will be taking over Freedom Plaza for the next four months, organizers said.

Stop the Machine, also known as the October 2011 Movement, has joined Occupy DC in many of its efforts so far, including a protest in the Capitol earlier this week.

On Tuesday, more than a hundred protesters shut down the Hart Building with chants and banners. Six people were arrested. Later in the day, some of those protesters disrupted a Senate Finance Committee Hearing, leading to two arrests, according to Schneider. All of those protestors have been released, with court dates set for late November.