Occupy protestors disrupt Gingrich presser

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For the second time in two weeks, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich was temporarily drowned out by protesters as he made his final push to the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.

Gingrich was holding a press conference Wednesday at the Iowa Capitol to receive the endorsements of Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, and New Hampshire House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, when five protesters who are part of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement began shouting.

“Mic check!” one of them yelled, a signature line of the group to get people’s attention.

Three standing behind Gingrich then followed up by clapping and chanting, “Put people first!”

Gingrich turned back to look at the protesters, who were after a few minutes escorted out of the Statehouse meeting room.

“My experience, campaigning throughout Iowa and New Hampshire, is you just saw the one-tenth of 1 percent,” Gingrich quipped to the room filled with reporters and TV cameras.

Gingrich, one of six campaigning in Iowa for the 2012 Republican nomination for president, had a similar experience a week earlier. During a visit to the University of Iowa to talk about brain science, a small cluster of Occupy protesters chanted angrily about the former U.S. House speaker's ties to lobbying firms and his apparent inability to understand their "outrage."

“I was at the University of Iowa the other day, and that same one-tenth of 1 percent – all noise, no thought – tried to drown out conversations,” Gingrich told reporters.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has inspired thousands to camp out in public places to protest corporate greed, social and economic inequality, and the influence of corporate money and lobbyists on government.

They often refer to themselves as the “99 percent.” Gingrich has been a critic of the movement.

Paulsen called the protests unnecessary. There was no screening for attending the press conference; Paulsen said that was left up to Gingrich’s campaign staff.

“Obviously, they have something they want to say and they, for some reason, thought that was the best way to be heard,” Paulsen said. “But it’s not.”

Gingrich, who was the front-runner in Iowa just a week ago, has since seen his standing slip following a barrage of negative TV ads.

An Iowa State University/Gazette/KCRG poll of 333 likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers released Wednesday found Texas U.S. Ron Paul in the lead with 27.5 percent, followed closely by Gingrich with 25.3 percent and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 17.5 percent. However, Paul's lead over Gingrich is within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Gingrich predicted last Thursday that his lead was “soft” and said he expected to see some ups and downs before the Jan. 3 caucuses. However, he said he believes that the Iowa caucuses will be a contest between himself, Romney and Paul.

You can watch a video of Occupy Wall Street protestors disrupting a Gingrich meeting here.

Lynn Campbell covers politics and government for IowaPolitics.com, which is owned by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

 

 

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