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Dozens of demonstrators from Pennsylvania occupy the office of Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., during a "Take Back the Capitol" protest in the Hart Senate Office Building Tuesday.
By plane, train and bus, thousands of activists are converging on Washington, D.C. this week to “Take Back Our Capitol.” Though the pilgrimage borrows the some of the language of the Occupy protests, and includes a contingent of those activists, the crowd hails largely from nonprofits and political organizations.
"We came to tell members of Congress that they should represent the 99 percent not just corporations and the 1 percent," said Colleen Bugarske, 59, a volunteer from West Los Angeles with MoveOn.org, a national nonprofit political advocacy group.
For R.L Miller — a blogger and mom who runs a law practice in Oak Park, Calif. — the experience seems to highlight what activists have said is wrong: that government is disconnected from the people.
She boarded a plane at 5 a.m. Monday to join the three days of political action in the nation's capital. On Tuesday, with about 15 other activists from the Los Angeles nonprofit Good Jobs LA and an allied group from New York, she showed up around 12:30 p.m. at the Washington office of Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., who represents Ventura County, where Miller lives. For about two hours, they knocked on the locked door every five minutes, trying to meet with Gallegly or at least schedule a meeting with him.
Staffers and other people came and went, but the door remained locked to activists standing in the hall. They were told, they said, that the Gallegly was not there — that he was on a flight into D.C. to take part in a vote. Later, however, he emerged from a side door and headed for the elevators with a security escort.
Before he could leave — and after proving to Gallegly that she lives in his district — Miller was able to ask him a question: “What are you doing for the poor and unemployed in our area?”
The congressman said he had given hundreds of toys to needy children over the weekend, said Miller and other activists. Then he wished them a merry Christmas.
"I said, 'I'm a constituent. Can I have a meeting with you this week?'" says Miller. To that, she says Gallegly replied: "I just gave you that meeting by wishing you a merry Christmas."
Then the elevator doors closed.
The activists remained stationed outside Gallegly’s office door after he left, but Miller’s repeated calls to his staff did not result in an appointment with the congressman.
Rep. Gallegly's office did not return calls from msnbc.com before the end of the business day Tuesday.
Miller noted that, by contrast, other congressional offices on the hallway appeared to be open for business. Some groups of activists were successful gaining entry to congressional offices — if not to have their concerns heard by representatives or staffers, then to hold sit-ins.
Miller said she had several concerns that she wanted to air. She wanted to ask him to support the renewable energy industry and to be more accessible to his constituents.
“I’ve lived in his district for 18 years,” she says. “He has been in Congress the whole time I’ve been there … He hardly shows his face around Ventura County.”
To be sure, many of the activists with Miller weren't from Gallegly's district.
“We’re standing in solidarity because … this is something that crosses state lines, something that affects all of us,” said Cara Noel, an activist who joined from United New York, a nonprofit that aids working-class people. “Because this is something we are all going through as part of the 99 percent. If people put (him) into office, they should be able to come and talk with him.”
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