A small group of demonstrators staged a silent protest during Mitt Romney’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday. Security guards for the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, where the annual gathering of conservatives is being held, quickly threw the protesters out.
Joe Gallant, 22, was among the group. Gallant said the protesters moved to the front of an overflow room where attendees were watching Romney’s speech, taped their mouths, and revealed T-shirts that read, “If money is speech, then poverty is silence.”
“We were just trying to get our point across that there is too much money in politics,” Gallant said.
Trade unions and community groups staged a larger protest outside the hotel. The demonstrators tried to approach the hotel building but were turned back by police. The crowd chanted the Occupy movement slogan, “We are the 99%,” but only a few members of Occupy D.C. were present.
Monique Covington, 24, a member of Our DC, a community group working to bring jobs to the city, said she was protesting plans to cut entitlement programs. She said she has been unemployed for five years and supports herself and her son on food stamps and other benefits.
“They cut that, people are going to be dying without food and water,” she said.
Small groups of CPAC attendees came out to watch the protesters, and some tried to debate with them. Patrick Richardson, 21, a business student from Ohio, asked protesters for their thoughts on a flat tax.
“I’m by no means the 1% yet, but I aspire to be,” he said.
Union members plan to return to CPAC again early Friday evening, and Occupy D.C. is planning another protest for the conference’s final day Saturday.