A mob pushes out a fellow occupier. Ian Buck

As the Occupy Wall Street movement continues to gain traction in national politics, local organizations and activists are growing more sophisticated in their lobbying and protests. But the scene on the ground can be chaotic.

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Campers were finally crawling into their tents at about 2:30 a.m. on October 30, and attempting to enjoy their first restful night on the Seattle Central Community College campus. But a few minutes later, three men who walked into Occupy Seattle's new digs began to give the Nazi salute. I was camping in back and didn't see them myself, but when I arrived up front a few minutes later, dozens of witnesses said campers had just physically pushed out three Nazis, including one man with the words "Sieg Heil" tattooed on his chin, from the camp. Some protesters had even attempted to whack the (alleged) Nazis with sticks, several protesters told me.

Within 15 minutes, the intruders were long gone, but Occupiers had begun fighting among themselves. Protesters were physically pushing a man in a top hat—a fellow Occupier—out of the camp because they believed he had defended the Nazis (I didn't get his name, because he was literally being mobbed). But the man insisted he opposed the Nazis—he was simply trying to break up what appeared to be a fight. A person claiming to be him on The Stranger's blog, Slog, wrote this comment: "I've never been a part of, nor advocated for, any political group. I personally detest the beliefs of the Nazi party... If you use violence towards ANYONE who has gathered peacefully at any OS assembly I will stand in your way as well. We have to stick to our rules of engagement. Non Violence!"

As the meeting continued for more than two hours, several protesters argued that Nazis must be expelled "by any means necessary," while others opposed physical tactics. This dispute—about using force in a nonviolent movement—exposed an underlying weakness: The group quickly becomes polarized.

Internal disputes have consumed many General Assembly meetings since the occupation began in Westlake Park on October 1. A meeting held the previous Sunday lasted three hours without a single decision, as proposals to move the camp and place rules on renaming the group both failed. Occupy Wall Street's message about protesting runaway corporate influence is often set aside.

But while Seattle's movement has been divided and atrophied slightly since its march of 3,000 people two weeks ago, there are bright spots. The campers have planned to protest JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon on November 2. Meanwhile, the American Federation of Teachers–Seattle, Local 1789 advocated to let campers use the community college grounds, and local political heavyweights are as supportive as ever.

Nationally, a public opinion poll released on October 25 by the New York Times and CBS News found that two-thirds of Americans believe wealth should be distributed more evenly and that we should hike income taxes for millionaires. In other words, Americans believe exactly what the protesters are calling for. Politico posted an article on October 30 called "Income gap slips into GOP talk." It quotes Representative Bill Flores (R-Texas) saying: "Absolutely, there's huge income inequality, and it started right here in Washington."

Likewise, David Freiboth, executive secretary of the massive King County Labor Council, says impacts are visible in the bigger picture. "It could be a mistake to read too much into what is happening with the structure of the protests," says Freiboth. "I think the germane point in the popular uprising is that it has changed the discussion we are having publicly about economic disparity and what's really going on with the economy. So in that regard, it's been a success." Union leaders and progressive nonprofits are ready to tackle a special legislative session in Olympia on November 28—calling for taxing authority to save social programs—with the wind of the Occupy movement at their backs.

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In Seattle, however, the demonstrations are as much about the national message as an experiment in self-governance. But they are susceptible to massive internal fractures when outsiders troll them. The first time Occupiers defend their "free speech" zone against someone whose free speech is repugnant (like a Nazi) by punching them or whacking them with a stick, then cops could get involved. That could get the group kicked off campus and end their experiment in self-reliance.

However, activists say they're just getting started. "We protested, we gained support—and we can always use more support—and now you are going to start seeing some tactics, including protest directly at banks," says Occupy Seattle spokeswoman Aliana Bazara. "To people who say it's fizzling: It's not." recommended

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