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“I believe the protests are more anti-capitalism and anti-free market than anything else,” he said on the CBS show, elaborating that the protesters are aiming frustration at the state of the economy at the wrong target.

“The bankers and the people on Wall Street didn’t write these failed policies of the Obama administration,” he said.

Mr. Cain, who has surged to the top of many polls, also said that he thinks the protests have been “coordinated” by pro-Democrat labor unions “to create a distraction” from the administration’s inability to resurrect the sinking American economy. In a widely publicized interview with the Wall Street Journal last week, he said that angry activists who don’t have a job and haven’t achieved success should blame themselves, not big banks and corporations or wealthy Americans.

While Mr. Cain and other Republicans have also taken aim at organized labor and other allies of the Democratic Party for their support of the protests, supporters think they have been a grass-roots uprising, not staged events.

“It’s the American system. It’s a democratic system,” said Mrs. Pelosi, who in 2009 derided the tea party movement as “AstroTurf, it’s not really a grass-roots movement. It’s AstroTurf by some of the wealthiest people in America to keep the focus on tax cuts for the rich instead of for the great middle class.”

“People are angry. I support the message [of the protesters] to the establishment, whether it is Wall Street or the political establishment … change has to happen,” she said.

President Obama seems to share that view. In a press conference last week, he said the protests show the “broad-based frustration” of Americans who believe the system is now rigged against the middle class.

“We had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the economy … and yet you’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on the abusive practices that got us into this in the first place,” Mr. Obama said, taking a shot at banks and corporations that continue to rake in huge profits at a time of 9 percent unemployment.

But presidential hopeful and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Sunday that the president is largely responsible for the Occupy activism by pushing a “haves vs. have-nots” narrative designed to pit Americans against each other.

He said on “Face the Nation” that the movement is “the natural product of Obama’s class warfare.”

Whatever their genesis, the protests have spread beyond New York City and continued across the country Sunday after a weekend of protests in Washington, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and elsewhere.

A crowd of about 200 Occupy D.C. activists marched on Freedom Plaza, a block from the White House, on Sunday. About 100 people showed up at an Occupy event in Bradenton, Fla., railing against disparities in the financial, tax and health care systems in the U.S., according to the Associated Press.

Local media outlets reported that several hundred people rallied in Burlington, Vt., protesting everything from the banking industry to the cost of education to the death penalty. And in Denver, activists have set up more than 20 tents and shelters near the state Capitol and held up signs Sunday condemning greed and corruption.

Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat, showed up a recent Occupy protest in Atlanta, and, while he didn’t speak to the crowd, he told ABC News that he stands with the group.

“I support you, what you’re doing to humanize American corporations, humanize the American government and look out for those who have been left out and left behind,” Mr. Lewis said.

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