WASHINGTON — Protesters from across the nation rallied Tuesday on Capitol Hill under the banner of the Occupy movement, saying they came to Washington to greet Congress as members return to work after a holiday recess.
"This recharges the Occupy movement," said Camilo Brokaw, a protester from Albuquerque, N.M.
A group calling itself Occupy Congress organized the event, using social media to draw other protesters aligned with the Occupy movement from across the country. Protesters filled the Capitol lawn wearing costumes, holding signs and playing music. While the Occupy movement remains leaderless, without any official spokespeople or party lines, a central goal of the day was to bring together people from across the country to create concrete plans for the group.
"We're gaining support because our message is true," said Shamar Thomas, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who gained attention for his diatribe against police brutality at Occupy Wall Street in October.
The movement, which has its roots in the first Occupy Wall Street rally in New York in September, has come under criticism for its lack of focus and organization. Protesters attributed its success to precisely that.
"I think that's been their strength, having respect for all different kinds of points of view," said Sharon Pio of Washington.
Organizers had hoped thousands would come for the event. In the end, it was more like 500, the Washington Post reported.
U.S. Capitol Police reported four arrests.
Tuesday night, an apparent smoke bomb was thrown over the fence of the White House as hundreds of protesters massed outside the gates. The crowds were dispersed, and U.S. Secret Service spokesman George Ogilvie said there were no arrests.
He said there were up to 1,500 protesters. Something appearing to be a smoke bomb was thrown over the fence and the device was removed, he said.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.