Unemployed protesters stage sit-ins in dozens of lawmaker offices

Nearly 3,000 protesters are staging sit-ins in congressional offices at the Capitol on Tuesday, demanding they be heard on the plight of the unemployed.

The protests, organized by activist groups including OurDC and Moveon.org, will target 99 lawmakers’ offices by the end of the day, according to event spokesman Mike Uehlein.

“These folks have traveled from across the country,” he told The Hill, noting that many of the protesters were unemployed. “They’re calling on their congressional leaders to take actions on the jobs crisis.”

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Several dozen individuals targeted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office in the Russell Senate Office Building, refusing to leave until they met with the lawmaker.

They “arrived this morning around 11:30 [a.m.]; they asked for a meeting with the Senator,” McConnell’s spokesman, Robert Steurer, wrote in an email.

“Since they did not have a meeting scheduled, we offered them a meeting with our legislative director and they declined,” he added. “This is the same group that was here in early November – and we offered them a meeting a couple times during that visit and they declined.”

Capitol Police had made one arrest as of 1:45 p.m. Tuesday. A protester was detained in the Longworth House Office Building for unlawful entry, according to a Capitol Police source.

“Right now all we’re doing is monitoring their activities,” the source responded when asked if the department planned to make further arrests or increase the number of officers on duty.

The latest jobs report released on Friday showed the nation's unemployment rate dropped to 8.6 percent. Congress is haggling over whether to again extend federal benefits to the unemployed, which are set to expire at the end of the year.  

On Nov. 3, several dozen unemployed Washington residents staged a sit-in at McConnell’s office, and pledged to remain until McConnell granted a meeting on President Obama’s Rebuild America Jobs Act. They were unsuccessful.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) reportedly closed his office to the protesters Tuesday, according to a witness. A sign was hung on the door saying the congressman would only meet with people who had an appointment.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the protesters had already visited nearly 20 lawmakers’ offices, including those of Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), as well as Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).

When asked if more protesters were willing to be arrested for their cause, Uehlein said, “We just hope it doesn’t come down to that.”

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