A small group of Occupy Wall Street protesters gathered outside the Union League Club on 37th and Park today to demonstrate against Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who was holding a fundraiser there. Gingrich famously told protesters to “go get a job right after you take a bath.” Bathtime was thus a theme of the protest, or at least it was supposed to be: one man was in a bathrobe and another guy sported a loofah attached to his backpack, though that was about it. The protest start time was 11:30 a.m., but when the Voice arrived a few minutes early, there were only two protesters on the scene. It stayed that way for a while.
Today’s action was organized by Direct Action working group member Ben Campbell, 28, seen above in a bathrobe. He was also wearing the kind of slippers that they give ladies at spas. For about 30 minutes, he and another occupier named Mark Adams, 31, who was wearing regular clothes, were the only OWS reps on the scene. The crowd eventually swelled to around 20 people at its highest point.
The low turnout didn’t stop the NYPD from bringing in a load of barricades just in case. This truck rolled by and a stack of barriers were taken out and laid on the sidewalk in case the maybe dozen or so people on the ground at that point got rowdy:
This was before an armor truck pulled up to the venue, followed by a second, larger armored truck. Curtis Sliwa showed up shortly thereafter in his Guardian Angels red beret and was greeted by loud boos. He waved to the protesters on the way in.
The crowd included at least one man who wasn’t involved in Occupy Wall Street but was there because of his pure and simple loathing for Newt Gingrich. He didn’t want to give his name but told the Voice that “I hate his guts so much that if I was in the same room I’d beat the shit out of him.” The man noted that Herman Cain is expected to endorse Gingrich and that Cain is a “fucking clown.”
“Newt! What a stupid name,” he concluded.
Protesters at one point tried to cross the street closer to the Union League Club, but were told to keep moving by police. The police quickly set up a barricade that became an impromptu press pen as protesters milled around in a circle. Then everyone went back to the other side.
Gingrich was expected to come out at 2 p.m., after a press conference indoors. While waiting, we spoke with a man who was coming out of the building and had been at the fundraiser. Of the protesters, he said “The guy in his underpants looks really good,” presumably referring to Campbell.
We also chatted with the man pictured below, who was smoking a cigar and wearing a double-breasted pinstripe suit. He has been a supporter of Gingrich’s for 17 years and knows him personally, but wouldn’t give his name or occupation to us. He said “I hope I don’t get arrested for smoking a Cuban out here,” according to OWS protester Jeff Smith. The man told the Voice that Gingrich is “terrific” and that his recent surge in the polls is due to the fact that “I think people are finally recognizing the capability that he has.”
Gingrich finally emerged around 2:30 p.m. and was spirited into an SUV by guards as the protesters booed and jeered loudly. We couldn’t get a good photo, penned in as we were, but to our eyes Gingrich didn’t seem ruffled at all.