Occupiers Target New Hampshire Primary, Politely

The upcoming Republican primaries are a big opportunity for Occupy groups to re-insert themselves into the conversation. In New Hampshire, protesters are planning PG-rated actions around the primary, including puppetry, mock funeral, “Dance Party of Awesomeness.

Protesters gather outside Manchester High School Central in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011, as President Barack Obama motorcade arrived. Charles Dharapak / AP

Occupy protesters in New Hampshire tell BuzzFeed they’re hoping to seize the spotlight from Republican candidates who arrive in the state Wednesday with a series of relatively polite demonstrations that may offer a relative respite to candidates who faced episodes of disruption and glitter-bombing in Iowa.

The Iowa caucuses offered loosely-knit Occupy movement a few moments of national attention, and the media-friendly arrests that are a staple of the movement: They drew attention from everyone from the Times to Andrew Breitbart.

In New Hampshire, organizers from OWS groups all over the state are preparing for “Occupy the New Hampshire Primary” starting on January 6th. This is a decidedly less confrontational crowd, however: organizers south of Manchester had a slumber party Sunday night. And while protester planners tell BuzzFeed they recognize the opportunity the primaries present (and the media coverage guaranteed by scuffles with the cops), they say they won’t be following Occupy Iowa’s path.

“I can tell you that Occupy New Hampshire is a group of people that are trying to work with police as much as we can,” said organizer Michael Grosse, 27, of Newmarket NH. “We work within the rules that are around here.” Grosse described Occupy the NH Primary as a “festival of democracy.”

In fact, Occupy NH isn’t actually planning to disrupt the primary vote at all. “We’re not planning on being at the polling stations and interfering with people’s right to vote and stuff like that,” said spokesman Mark Provost.

On the agenda: a number of teach-ins and lectures; a “Funeral Procession For the American Dream” before the debate on the 7th; “Street Theater ‘Puppets and Power’”; and a “Dance Party of Awesomeness,” among other happenings. Occupier Shannon Thompson, 24, said she was was planning to symbolically “marry” a corporation in protest of corporate personhood, but that her plans were delayed till the 20th to coincide with the anniversary of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision.

Some elements of the broader Occupy Wall Street movement make a point of eschewing the mainstream political world entirely, but the New Hampshire protesters never have. They’re the ones who mic-checked President Obama at a campaign event in Manchester in November. As Provost put it, “I think we’ve got to take politics really seriously because that’s how the one percent fucked us all.” In this case, though, the intentions for Occupy the Primary seem a little less purely issues-focused; Ryan Hirsch, the star of the Obama mic-check photo, said that protesters have chosen the primaries “mainly because the news media will be there. That’s where the cameras and interviews will be.”

Key organizers of the events number about 30, many of whom attended Sunday night’s sleepover and sign-making party. Organizers estimate that a few hundred will be involved in OTNHP, and delegations are coming in from all over the state and region.

The main crew involved is Occupy Manchester, the only NH-based occupation that ever actually had an occupation. The primary protests will be based out of Veteran’s Park, where they camped out in October for five days.

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