Des Moines Register - Dec 31, 2011
It was a motley assortment of people.
A former Catholic priest. A few people who could reasonably be called
professional activists. A former Wells
The group of about 20 people who gathered regularly at a Catholic
Worker house in
has been central in planning this week’s protests that have thrust the
The local protesters, primarily interested in what they believe are
income inequalities, include people attending their first protests and
those experienced in such actions.
This week, as presidential candidates rushed from one event to
another, members of the local Occupy movement showed up at banks and
campaign headquarters as they tried to get their message out. Some,
including Occupy leaders, were arrested for trespassing.
Frank Cordaro trained many of them. The former priest has been active
in anti-war protests for decades, even before he left the priesthood
in 2003 after 18 years.
He helped start the Catholic Worker community in
in one of the houses. He’s been arrested several times and refuses to
pay his fines out of solidarity with those who can’t.
Police know him well.
“Hey, Frank,” one said, shaking his hand when they stopped by the
group’s headquarters. “How many today, Frank?” another said as they
prepared to make arrests Thursday.
People who returned to
remembered working with Cordaro years ago.
At a recent meeting, the group took turns introducing themselves and
saying why they were there.
“My name is Frank Cordaro,” he said. “I’ve been here 35 years. And
I’ve been waiting for you.”
Cordaro was the only person David Goodner knew when he moved to Des
Moines after graduating from the
Goodner, a prominent, sometimes divisive, and usually respected figure
in the movement, attended his first demonstration in
in 2002 to protest the impending
That was the moment he “went from a frat boy to a card-carrying
socialist,” Goodner said.
He became active in anti-war groups at the
Phi Kappa Theta soon after.
He said it was time to move on because he couldn’t agree with many of
his fraternity brothers’ support of the conflict.
After college he got a job at
and moved into one of the Catholic Worker houses. He’s traveled to
participate in protective accompaniment — essentially acting as
unarmed bodyguards for vulnerable citizens in the hopes that American
faces will deter would-be attackers.
Goodner, 30, also credits his Catholic faith with inspiring him. “The
Jesus I follow fed homeless, healed the sick, spoke truth to power,
temple,” he said.
Goodner was arrested at a protest in November and when police searched
him, they found marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Three days later he
issued an apology, said he would no longer be a public face for the
group and vowed to enter a drug treatment program to determine whether
he had a substance-abuse problem. For about a month he stayed out of
the Occupy spotlight, still working behind the scenes.
He has since resumed appearing at public events, though has largely
let others lead the group’s “mic checks” and do media interviews.
Goodner met his partner, Megan Felt, five years ago when the two were
handcuffed next to each other at Sen. Chuck Grassley’s
office. Felt, who is eight months pregnant with Goodner’s child, is
“way tougher than I am,” he said.
Felt said she’s been arrested about a dozen times.
“So, not that many times,” she added. Three of the arrests have been
during the Occupy movement, including two this week.
She focuses her activism on South America, particularly
doing everything from translating paperwork in
fluent Spanish — to traveling to
“It was logical to get involved because I do resistance work on a
daily basis,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for something like this to
She uses the word “beautiful” a lot to describe the movement.
The 24-year-old with short hair is much quieter than Goodner. Others
often strain to hear her. But she has been at the front of protests
over the past several days.
On Friday, her mother, who traveled from
involved in massive protests there, insisted Goodner not let her be
Cordaro, Goodner and Felt have experience and have worked together
before. But in the past three months others without previous protest
experience have had a crash course.
Tony Tyler, 30, moved to
He won’t say where he works for fear of repercussions there, just that
it’s a full-time job outside of politics or the financial industry.
“The movement is strong because of the individuals involved,” he said.
“Community groups seemed to affirm and join in, but the power lies in
individuals getting involved. That’s why it’s effective.”
simple reason to get involved now.
“Economic justice,” he said. “It’s a simple phrase; it’s what I’m
Occupy Iowa Caucus web page: http://www.occupyiowacaucuses.org/
Des Moines Catholic Worker contacts for Occupy Des Moines:
Megan Felt - 515.991.1663 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Renee Espeland - 515.664.1326 <email@example.com>
David Goodner - 515.991.6357 <firstname.lastname@example.org>