- Associated Press - Thursday, December 29, 2011

DES MOINES, Iowa — Police arrested more than a dozen Occupy protesters Thursday in Iowa who are targeting Democrats and Republicans just days before the state’s closely watched leadoff presidential caucuses.

Five protesters were arrested outside the Iowa campaign headquarters of presidential contender Rep. Ron Paul of Texas in Ankeny before the group moved on to the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters in Des Moines, where 12 more were taken into custody. All were ticketed for trespassing and released.

The protests are part of an Occupy the Caucuses effort launched this week in Des Moines that has attracted activists from around the country. Many of them have promised to interrupt campaign activities, and organizers promised more confrontations on Friday with campaign offices of Republican presidential hopefuls.

Occupy the Caucuses spokeswoman Danielle Ryun, who was among those arrested at the state Democratic Party headquarters, said the goal is not to be arrested. But since campaign officials won’t listen to them, protesters are willing to be arrested to get their message across, she said.

“It would be great if we could show up, issue our concerns and have the candidates acknowledge us and change their platform,” she said.

Those arrested in Des Moines included a 14-year-old girl who was released to her father at the scene. On Thursday, seven protesters were arrested outside the Des Moines headquarters of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican.

Iowa Democratic Party Executive Director Norm Sterzenbach said the protesters were given the opportunity to express their opinions and that party officials listened to their concerns, but he said occupying the party offices was unacceptable.

Protesters at Mr. Paul’s campaign headquarters were protesting his proposal to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency if elected.

At the Iowa Democratic Party’s offices, protesters targeted President Obama, demanding that he put a stop to home foreclosures, turn down campaign donations from Wall Street and end indefinite detentions of terrorism-suspect detainees at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Mr. Paul gave a qualified endorsement to the Occupy movement earlier this week, comparing it with the tea party and calling it “healthy on both sides” to have popular mass movements.

“I put both groups together because I think both groups are unhappy about what’s happening in Washington and around the country and the economic conditions,” he told a questioner at an event Wednesday in West Des Moines.

The libertarian-leaning candidate defended making money via private enterprise, but noted that many rich people became that way through cronyism with the government and said the Occupy movement addresses that problem.

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