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Occupy protesters rally against Congress at Capitol

Occupy Congress/DC protesters hold up a sign in front of the U.S. Capitol during a rally in Washington
Occupy Congress/DC protesters hold up a sign in front of the U.S. Capitol during a rally in Washington

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Demonstrators from the Occupy movement rallied at the Capitol and congressional office buildings on Tuesday to protest against the influence of money on lawmakers.

In a sign of renewed vigor for the Occupy movement, which staged protests in many cities last fall, several hundred demonstrators staged rallies and attempts to meet lawmakers as they returned from a holiday break.

Occupy protesters from around the country who gathered on the Capitol's rain-soaked lawn carried signs saying, "Face it liberals, the Dems sold us out," "Congress for sale" and "Banksters of America."

"We're trying to make the congressional representatives and constituents around the world who haven't bothered being involved yet realize that we're here, and you can have a voice and stand up for your rights," said Sara Shaw, 24, of Washington.

After a morning rally on the Capitol's West Lawn, protesters who had come from as far as Nevada and San Diego attempted to enter the Capitol and congressional office buildings.

A Capitol Police spokeswoman said officers were monitoring the protesters. One demonstrator was arrested for assaulting a police officer and three others for crossing a police line, she said.

NO RESPECT

The protest against Congress comes as a record 84 percent of Americans say they disapprove of the way Washington lawmakers are doing their job, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll published on Monday.

Democrats and Republicans fought last year over the best way to control the U.S. debt and budget deficit as the parties tried to position themselves for the 2012 elections.

"Corporations and government have been so inextricably linked that it's not a true democracy anymore, and people have to realize that," said David, 16, a high school student from New Haven, Connecticut, who gave only his first name.

The leaderless Occupy movement burst onto the national scene in September at Wall Street in New York with its focus on income inequality and the perceived greed of the rich and powerful.

The movement succeeded in changing the national political conversation but it has weakened with winter weather and perhaps protest fatigue. Police have cleared Occupy encampments in New York, Los Angeles and other big cities.

The Washington Occupy movement has been among the most durable, in part because the National Park Service has allowed protesters to keep their encampments in two public squares near the White House.

District of Columbia officials are starting to show signs of impatience. Mayor Vincent Gray urged the National Park Service last week to remove protesters from one of the sites, McPherson Square, citing a rat infestation and other health concerns.

Among their rounds of congressional officers, protesters stopped at the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and met a staffer, according to a Twitter feed from @aubreyjwhelan.

The committee's chairman, Darrell Issa, a California Republican, has criticized the Park Service for not taking action against protesters in McPherson Square.

(Additional reporting by Lily Kuo: Reporting By Ian Simpson. Editing by Peter Bohan and Paul Thomasch.)

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