Much like Herman Cain, Occupy Wall Street won’t let setbacks keep them out of the limelight. About 25 protesters rallied outside Newt Gingrich’s $1000-per person fundraiser at the Union League Club on Park Avenue this morning to protest his lobbying activities and strike back after he told them to “get a job, right after you take a bath.”
“We want to draw attention to the influence of corrupt corporate money,” organizer Ben Campbell, 28, said. “He’s the dirty one: he’s a shill for corporations, and now after Cain and Perry screwed up he’s the frontrunner by default because he’s the only one who can string two sentences together.”
Mr. Campbell, a neuroscience grad student at Rockerfeller College and member of OWS’ Direct Action committee, set up the protest after hearing of the fundraiser and emailing the Union Club under the guise of a Newt-loving banker to confirm details. Originally, he intended to throw light on Mr. Gingrich’s corporate connections – which have seen him amass as much as $31 million since he resigned as House Speaker, including $1.6 million from Freddie Mac for work as a “housing historian” – by having Occupiers show up in bath robes and shower caps.
Much to the chagrin of the Post reporter on the lookout for pretty female protesters, however, Mr. Campbell was the only one to do so, and one of only two in total who showed up at the announced time. It was a good half hour before the twelve journalists on hand were outnumbered by the protesters, though that didn’t stop the NYPD from unloading a large number of metal barricades. (The officer in charge told us that “it’s always better to be safe than sorry.”)
“Getting the word out is a lot harder without a central location,” protester Mark Adams, 31, who had actually spent the night before taking a bath, explained. “The assumption is that everyone has web access, but a lot of people don’t have smartphones, or even MetroCards, because they’re broke.”
The Occupiers are currently negotiating over a new ground zero space at 6th and Canal, which Mr. Adams explained was crucial to keeping the movement going after being evicted from Zuccotti Park in November. “A lot of people are unaware,” he said. “People don’t see us and don’t think we’re around.”
Chanting “We’re clean, he’s dirty!” and holding up signs with inscriptions like “Mr. Bubble says it’s time to take a bath” or “Hey Newt, got beat up for your name in school?”, the protesters heckled attendees – including Curtis Sliwa – as they filed in to hear their candidate expound on the UN, the economy, and foreign affairs. The notoriously long-winded Mr. Gingrich did not emerge for several hours, so the Occupiers passed the time by crossing the street and avoiding arrest for “assembling” by marching in a circle.
Probably the most interesting part of the protest was the insight it offered into which wealthy New Yorkers are going gaga for Mr. Gingrich, who is expected to pick up support after Herman Cain “suspended” his campaign on Saturday. The Observer chatted with one attendee – a Gingrich donor since 1994 – in a double-breasted suit who had popped out to smoke a Cohiba cigar. He claimed it was a Dominican, though when he first left the Union League Club he told OWS press rep Jeff Smith, unprompted, “I hope I don’t get busted for smoking a Cuban out here.”