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Occupy protesters target California Democrats

Juliet Williams

Even with Democrats supporting higher taxes on the wealthy this November, Occupy protesters still found fault with California's majority party at their annual convention in San Diego on Saturday.

About 100 Occupy members protested outside the San Diego Convention Center, where the state party was holding the convention, sounding off on themes similar to those being discussed inside. But protesters said some Democrats had let them down by supporting the indefinite detention of terror suspects and spending millions on political campaigns.

"Don't just watch us, come and join us," and "Get up, get down, there's revolution in this town," they chanted.

Democratic delegates had to push through the crowd as they returned from lunch, but many stopped to talk to the protesters. Some of them also wore buttons saying "We are the 99 percent" and "Millionaire's tax of 2012."

The Occupy movement began as a protest against the widening gap between the very wealthy and everyone else.

Speaking to convention participants, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Democrats owe thanks to the Occupy protesters. The former San Francisco mayor said they drew attention to income inequality, which he called "the greatest threat to democracy."

On behalf of his two young children, he said, "I want to thank the Occupy movement for stepping up and stepping into this space and doing more than we have in 30 years for putting the focus on the growing income inequality gap."

Mike Oren of Los Angeles said he was among 34 people who traveled on a bus from Southern California to the convention Saturday morning.

"We're here to protest the National Defense Authorization Act," he said.

That law, signed by President Barack Obama in December, authorizes the indefinite detention of American citizens suspected of terrorism. Many civil liberties activists believe the law is unconstitutional.

Activists held signs with vulgarities denouncing the law and criticizing Democratic leaders for supporting it. "The Democrats also serve the 1 percent," said one sign.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota also slammed the defense act during a dinnertime speech. He said the United States risks repeating the mistakes of the Second World War, when the nation detained Japanese citizens in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"An America that detains its own citizens without charge or trial is not the America I know and love, it's not the America California Democrats know and love," Franken said.

Another group of protesters opposing the Defense Authorization Act held a large banner across the street from the convention center and used a loudspeaker to convey their message about civil liberties issues.

Security officials watched the protesters and guarded the doors to the convention center but did not interfere with the protesters, who eventually marched away.

The Associated Press