WASHINGTON -- Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) told reporters at his weekly press conference Monday morning that he is taking a threat by the group Anonymous to shut down the Iowa caucuses seriously, even as members of Occupy Des Moines say he's overreacting and that they are not worried about the threat.
Last week, a DVD credited to Anonymous, an activist hacker group, was left at the Occupy Des Moines encampment. It contained a message on it that was supportive of the protesters' idea to Occupy the Iowa caucuses.
Protesters affiliated with the Occupy Des Moines groups told The Huffington Post they simply mean to get the attention of the Republican presidential candidates competing in the caucuses, not prevent the actual voting process from taking place. But in its message, Anonymous went a step further, calling on protesters to peacefully shut down the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, 2012 and to gather at the campaign offices of presidential candidates on Dec. 27, 2011.
Local authorities in Iowa are preparing security plans in case people try to follow through on Anonymous's call to action. John Benson, Legislative Liaison and Alternate State Coordinating Officer for Iowa's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division said state officials had begun devising contingency plans for the caucuses before the Anonymous video surfaced, but he said the group's call to action is on the state's radar.
On Monday, Branstad told reporters, "Obviously we will take this seriously. We intend to work with Homeland Security and law enforcement so the caucuses are not disrupted."
"This has never happened before," he said. "We've never had this kind of threat made to our open process of giving people an opportunity to participate and we want to do all we can to protect people’s right to participate in this system. I want to assure you that we take it very seriously and we will work with federal and state agencies and with local law enforcement. I think everybody recognizes we need to be vigilant in this and take it seriously."
But David Goodner, an Occupy Des Moines activist, said he is not worried about Anonymous's plans -- especially because unlike Occupy Des Moines, Anonymous has no organizing capacity on the ground. He also sought to distance the Occupy protesters from the hacker group.
"Occupy Des Moines has no intention of disrupting or interfering with caucus voting on January 3," said Goodner. "We are targeting the presidential candidates and the big-moneyed corporations pulling their strings behind the scenes, not everyday voters."
Aaron Jorgensen, also a part of Occupy Des Moines, similarly brushed off Anonymous.
"I take it seriously to the extent that discussions are ongoing within the group to make sure the caucus activities that Occupy Des Moines is planning don't get hijacked from Anonymous or anyone else outside the group," Jorgensen said.
Jorgensen said Occupy Des Moines has had no contact with Anonymous and does not support the group's call to disrupt the voting process. He added that he believes that Branstad is overreacting.
Jorgenson spoke to HuffPost from Chicago, where he traveled to invite Occupy Chicago protesters to head to Iowa around New Year's.
"We're inviting other Occupiers from across the nation to come to Iowa on December 27 to have our own Occupation Caucus, where we will assemble and discuss the concerns of the 99 percent and create a statement that expresses those concerns," Jorgensen said.
The group has also put out a call on Twitter for people to come to Iowa the first week of January.