About 75 Occupy protesters swarmed Mitt Romney's campaign headquarters in the old BlockBusters Video store west of downtown Des Moines Wednesday afternoon, with a handful arrested in a polite exchange with police.
Seven men and women sat in front of the entrance after Romney staffers locked the doors. Chanting slogans, waving signs, beating drums, pounding on doors and windows, and even juggling, the protesters demanded to speak with Romney, who was campaigning several hours away in eastern Iowa.
"We're locked out, so we're just going to occupy until they let us in," said Aaron Jorgenson, an Occupy Des Moines protester. "Mitt Romney is a bought-and-paid for politician."
The group sent out a news release earlier in the day calling Wells Fargo Bank a predatory lender and criticizing Romney's campaign for accepting donations from the bank.
Patch.com sent an email to Romney's campaign, and left a voicemail for the media staff, seeking comment on the criticism. The message were not returned.
After about 30 minutes of protest at the Romney office, Des Moines police arrived, went into the headquarters and, after a bit, emerged with a Romney staffer who asked the protesters to leave.
Police Sgt. David Huberty told the protesters they would be given time to get off the property, and then officers would arrest anyone who did not want to leave. The seven stayed.
And while a police officer videotaped the event for evidence, teams of police officers arrested the protesters one by one — asking if they have any injuries or disabilities. Officers cuffed one man's hands in front of him instead of behind his back because of physical concerns. All the protesters cooperated and walked to the police wagon.
Three more women were arrested about half an hour later at the nearby Ingersoll Avenue location of Wells Fargo Bank. Sgt. Chris Scott of the Des Moines Police Department said the protesters would be taken to the Des Moines police station, where they would be released after being issued citations for misdemeanor trespassing.
As protesters and media swarmed the bank, customers in the drive-up banking lanes looked on in with interest. Bernie and Brenda Mouw said the scene was interesting, although it did tend to slow down their transaction.
Three women from Occupy Iowa Caucuses went into the bank and were arrested inside.
According to Occupy DSM members, these people were arrested at the Romney office: Father Peter Dougherty, 77, Lansing, MI; Nathan Harrington, 39, Des Moines; Jennifer Marsh, 38, Iowa City; Anthony Willhide, 25, Plaquemines Parlish, LA; Ed Bloomer, 64, Des Moines; Katie Rockey, 19, Des Moines; Jalan Crossland, 41, Tensleep, WY.
Group members arrested at Wells Fargo are: Megan Felt, 24, Des Moines; Kathy Molitor, 54, Cazenovia, WI; and Renee Espeland, 50, Des Moines.
Occupy Des Moines, in a news release earlier in the day, labeled Wells Fargo as notorious for its subprime, predatory lending and tax avoidance, and called Romney a former corporate CEO who has pledged to enact a corporate agenda to cut, de-regulate and privatize government at the expense of hardworking families.
"Mitt Romney and Wells Fargo are both symbolic of the corporate takeover of our political system and we demand that Romney return $61,500 in campaign contributions he took from Wells Fargo PAC, employees, and family members of employees in the 2012 election cycle to date, and that both Romney and Wells Fargo agree to full tax disclosure because we don't think either one of them pays their fair share of taxes," said Megan Felt, 24, of Des Moines.
Wells Fargo PAC, employees, and family members of employees have donated at least $61,500 to Romney's campaign during the 2012 election cycle, according to www.opensecrets.org.
Romney has refused to disclose his tax returns, according to a Dec. 22 report in the New York Times, the news release said.
Occupy Des Moines has invited protesters from around the country to demonstrate outside the campaign headquarters of the presidential candidates in the days leading to the Jan. 3 caucuses.