In a forerunner of what some Republicans expected to be a recurring event over the next 20 days, about a dozen protesters from the Occupy movement disrupted the start of a campaign appearance by Newt Gingrich at the University of Iowa on Wednesday.
The candidate had just begun to speak, at an event designed to highlight his support for additional research on Alzheimer's and brain science, when the protesters began chanting in unison.
The group, who said they were part of the Occupy movement in Iowa City and nearby Cedar Rapids, continued as several members were escorted from the room by plainclothed security officers.
There were no arrests.
Iowa Republicans are preparing for possible interruptions in the Jan. 3 caucuses by Occupy protesters. At a recent mock-caucus training session in Ames, the county Republican chairman advised local party officials that the caucuses are private party events, even though many will be taking place in public buildings.
If demonstrators become unruly and attempt to disrupt a caucus, then police should be summoned, party officials were advised.
At the same time, if a member of an Occupy group signs in as a Republican voter, he or she should be allowed to participate, the advice went, including during a portion of the caucuses in which issues are discussed.
However, the party officials were reminded that it takes at least two people to make a proposal—one to propose a motion and another to second it. By that calculation, it would take more than 3,500 protesters to have an impact at all 1,774 caucuses.
Party leaders expect any disruptions to be limited to Des Moines and other heavily populated areas, if they occur at all.
Gingrich, who allowed the protest to continue for about two minutes before starting to speak, said he believes in participatory democracy "sometimes by people who are rowdy. That's part of the price of freedom."
The protesters delivered a laundry list of anti-Gingrich lines, accusing him of "disregard for the poor," criticized his role in crafting the 1990s welfare reform, his "vilification of people as shiftless and unwilling to work" and "your disgusting suggestions that we bring back child labor."
Gingrich supporters began trying to shout down the protesters, whom Gingrich described as 1% of the crowd. There were about 300 people attending the event at the university’s medical complex.
"I was glad to come to the University of Iowa," Gingrich interjected, as the protest continued, because of "your tradition of intellectual discourse."
The demonstration was apparently the first against Gingrich by Occupy followers in Iowa. A Gingrich appearance last month at Harvard was also disrupted by Occupy protesters.