Two Occupy protesters braved freezing temperatures in Laconia, New Hampshire, on Thursday to stand silently outside a Rotary lunch meeting where Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman made his 130th campaign appearance in the state. They held a sign that read “Occupy NH Primary” and also a large mock ballot with a tick next to a “We the People” option instead of the Republican or Democrat options.
While it’s not clear what role protesters plan to play in the 2012 U.S. elections, they are already making themselves heard. Occupy protesters have interrupted campaign speeches by President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. They have also targeted New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as he campaigned for Mitt Romney, the current frontrunner in the Republican White House race.
Protesters in the national movement, which grew from an initial Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York City on Sept. 17, are upset that billions of dollars in bailouts were given to banks while “average” Americans are still suffering financially, and accuse politicians of being swayed by large campaign donations from big businesses.
The catch-cry of “We are the 99 percent,” which refers to a view that the richest 1 percent don’t pay enough in taxes, has struck a chord across the country, and the protests’ momentum has prompted politicians, unions and even some advertisers to adopt the rhetoric.
While echoing the protesters’ language, Obama has sought to downplay the notion of a 1 percent versus a 99 percent, and this week so did Huntsman while campaigning in New Hampshire, where the first primary to choose the Republican presidential nominee will be held on Jan. 10.