Activists Gather to Protest Koch Brothers Gala

Update: AlterNet's Adele Stan reports from inside the gala, where Occupy protestors infiltrated the party and surrounded the building. Read her report here.

Americans for Prosperity, a GOP front group funded in part by billionaires Charles and David Koch, held a gala at DC’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The event was part of its Defending the American Dream Summit and featured appearances by Republican presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Herman Cain.

As the GOP’s A-list sat down for an evening of dinner and a movie (a screening of Atlas Shrugged), a group of protesters gathered outside the convention center for a counter-event sponsored by Health Care For America Now! and The Other 98% called the "Koch Brothers Guerrilla Drive-In." The organizers aimed a projector at the wall of the convention center building to screen a short documentary about how the Koch brothers have used their massive fortune to influence the country's democracy.

The atmosphere was filled with anger and excitement as the number of people gathered outside the convention center grew, largely due to Occupy DC and Occupy K Street protesters who marched from their encampments at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza to “Occupy the Kochs.” 

They marched around the convention center, chanting “We got sold out, banks got bailed out,” and “They are the 1 percent, we are the 99 percent,” pointing to the convention center.

Tatiana Saenz, who has been attending Occupy DC in McPherson Square since early October, told me she was there because, “The people at this conference are not in line with our vision.”

Justin Feldman, also marching with Occupy DC, said, “Obviously the Koch brothers, Herman Cain and Mitt Romney don’t care that we’re here protesting, but it doesn’t matter because this is a multi-year struggle. This movement is showing a whole new generation of people that there are things they can do to have their voices heard.”

Isaiah Poole, the director of online communications for the Campaign for America's Future, helped organize the drive-in. “We need to clearly identify the villains, the people responsible for the damage that’s been done to our democracy," said Poole. "The Koch brothers have done more damage to workers' rights than anyone else and the audacity of them having a conference to “defend the American dream” when they’re actually destroying it is outrageous.”

Paul Adler, a PHD candidate at Georgetown studying 20th-century social movements, said this protest goes beyond anger at the Kochs. “This isn’t just about the right,” he said, adding “This is a convention of the 1 percent, which is why there’s an absurd collection of issues being protested here. If you are concerned about labor, the environment, or healthcare, then you have a villain in that building. “

Adrian Parson, who marched to the convention center with Occupy K Street, which has been camped out at Freedom Plaza since October 6, believes the movement is indeed making a difference. Parson said, “Words like 'occupy' and 'class war' are no longer absent from the Republican vocabulary or even Republican debates.”

Carrie Biggs-Adams of Communications Workers of America was excited to see so many people demonstrating. “There are a lot of people in this crowd, not just from Occupy DC, but people who have been angry for years at the right. The Occupy movement is giving people who haven’t been politically active permission to come out and demonstrate.”

Biggs-Adams says she is thrilled that people are finally marching, demonstrating and protesting. She said, “I’ve been out in the streets for years with CodePink and now because of the Occupy movement, people are actually joining us!”

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