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Most IC council candidates support Occupy

BY ASMAA ELKEURTI | OCTOBER 31, 2011 7:20 AM

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Most of the candidates vying for Iowa City City Council seats this year say they support the Occupy Iowa City movement.

But not all candidates. When contacted by The Daily Iowan over the weekend, Steve Soboroff was the only one — of the four candidates who responded — to criticize the movement while the others voiced support or declined to take sides.

"If they [want to] know how to protest something, they should look at footage from the '60s and '70s," Soboroff said. "A protest is a disruption. This is not a disruption — not saying I want it to be violent, but a protest usually disrupts something. This is a campout."

However, other candidates said the Iowa City Occupy movement is fostering important discussion among community members.

"They're bringing light to a lot of issues that are not being talked about or haven't been," said Jarrett Mitchell, an at-large candidate.

Mitchell said he sympathizes with the movement, but the thing he is most proud of is the community's cooperation.

"I'm just glad that the protesters and police in the city have all done well, and I think that's a testament to the citizens in our community," he said.

At-large candidate Raj Patel declined to comment about his thoughts on the protest's ideals but voiced respect for their efforts.

"It's citizens of Iowa City living out the democratic process, and I respect what they're doing in College Green Park, and I wish them well," he said.

Rick Dobyns, running in District A, also cited the importance of the right to collectively protest.

"I think for the 99 percent they're talking about, in general, the growing disparity … I recognize that. I think that it exists," Dobyns said in regards to the national Occupy Wall Street movement.

But Soboroff maintained the movement is unfocused.

"I personally don't sympathize," Soboroff said. "I see the problems — everybody sees the problems. I'm not getting the movement. When we protested something, we have one goal, one topic. This movement is all over the road."

Soboroff also said the movement's execution fell short in terms of proper protesting, citing his own involvement in protests during the civil-rights movement and against the Vietnam War.

"We had sit-ins, we blocked things, we demonstrated. We didn't just camp out," he said. "When I look at the movement here in the park, I'm not seeing the effectiveness of it. They're getting permission from the city, they're getting Port-a-Potties, they go home at night, and they go to work during the day."

But Occupy representative Steve Hoffelt said the constant presence in the community is meant to bring people together.

"We don't have all the answers to this movement right now, but by building a community, we're getting a place to meet and talk, and we're starting to form the answers," he said.

Hoffelt said he doesn't believe that candidates have made any attempts to reach out to the Occupy movement.

"I'm at the camp a lot … I haven't seen any of the candidates come down and talk to us and find out what we're doing or what we're about," he said. "I encourage them to please do so."


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