Occupy Des Moines protesters demonstrated one thing tonight: They know how to throw a fun protest.
They came in costume. They dressed as circus clowns, Republican candidates Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney and media puppets on a string.
Ringmaster Danielle Ryun led the crowd as they marched and chanted from 5:30 to 7 p.m. up and down the sidewalks of University Avenue in front of Drake University, where the first major GOP presidential debate is scheduled to take at 8 p.m.
Gathering about 50 Occupiers together for the march, Ryun told them to stay on the public sidewalks, stay off Drake property and "most important, have fun." Police had warned the protestors they could be come on university property, Ryun had told Patch.
Carrying balloon bouquets, horns, the protestors had fun with their "characters".
"I think we should stop shooting Occupiers with rubber bullets," said Jessica Reznicek, got into character as Ann Coulter of Fox News. "And start shooting them with real bullets."
A "fat cat" in an expensive suit, slicked back hair, smoked on a giant stogie and hammed it up for ABC news cameras. The puppet reporters walked like marionettes, their arms and legs tied to strings connected to puppet sticks above them.
Protesters were there to make a point with humor and skits and knew that the candidates would never see them, unless they watched news reports, so they staged their skits in front of news cameras.
A well-coiffed "Michele Bachmann" told the crowd that she could wipe out unemployment by lowering the minimum wage, so people would have to take any job to make enough money to live.
"Newt Gingrich" told the crowd and the cameras, "I support family values, that's why I get married every time I'm not having an extramarital affair."
And "Ron Paul" whined, "Why do I always have to go last? I don't believe government ever does anything good and when I'm elected, I'm going to prove it."
The gathering was animated and convivial with some protestors shaking hands and chatting with a Drake security guard who stood behind the barricades erected along the edge of the sidewalk to keep protestors off the campus.
Across the street, in a parking lot designated as "free speech zone," more than 100 Ron Paul supporters, most of them young people, chanted and waved signs.
The most confrontational the scene got was around 6:30 p.m. when the occupiers, having made one spin around about four blocks of University Avenue, lined up across from the Paul supporters and the two groups chanted at each other.
"We're not clowns!" chanted the Paul crowd, until the Occupiers, realizing that ABC News was going to go live down the street, moved down to get in front of the television cameras. "If you're in costume, move to the front. Get in front of the cameras," an Occupier directed.
Clayton Mitchell, who works at Drake and lives in the neighborhood, brought his 10-year-old daughter Bryony out to see the spectacle. What did she think?
"I think it's very interesting, but very loud," she said.