President Obama has taken nearly every opportunity lately to express support for the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters, but he failed to meet with some of the activists when he had the chance on his Southern bus trip.
A group of Occupy activists in Greensboro, N.C., asked for a meeting with the president, who stayed overnight Monday in a local hotel. But Mr. Obama didn’t oblige them.
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters traveling with the president that the White House communications staff had no contact with the “Occupy Greensboro” movement. Apparently that left some of the activists frustrated.
“About 50 people protested as Obama’s motorcade made its way to the Proximity Hotel,” Ben Lassiter, a member of Occupy Greensboro, wrote on the group’s Facebook page. “As he passed the chant was, ‘Hey Obama, I’m no fool, I know you’re a corporate tool.’ “
Scores of the protesters had set up camp in downtown Greensboro since Saturday, and about 600 people marched through the city Sunday protesting financial inequities. As Mr. Obama, who has been demanding that “millionaires and billionaires” pay higher taxes, began a campaign-style bus swing through North Carolina and Virginia Monday, some of the activists sought to form a delegation to meet with the president at his hotel and present him with a letter.
“Here we are, peaceably assembled, seeking to petition our Government for redress of grievances,” their letter to Mr. Obama stated. “Desiring to expedite this process, we thought it best to start at the top.”
In his public appearances, Mr. Obama has been expressing sympathy with the protesters and laying the blame for the financial crisis of 2008 at the feet of Republicans. He said Monday in Asheville, N.C., that a GOP jobs plan shows that Republicans “want to let Wall Street do whatever it wants.”
In an interview Tuesday with Jake Tapper of ABC News, Mr. Obama said he understands the frustration of the protesters.
“In some ways, they’re not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the tea party,” Mr. Obama said. “Both on the left and the right, I think people feel separated from their government. They feel that their institutions aren’t looking out for them.
“The most important thing we can do right now is those of us in leadership letting people know that we understand their struggles and we are on their side, and that we want to set up a system in which hard work, responsibility, doing what you’re supposed to do, is rewarded,” Mr. Obama added. “And that people who are irresponsible, who are reckless, who don’t feel a sense of obligation to their communities and their companies and their workers, that those folks aren’t rewarded.”
After the activists were denied a meeting with the president in Greensboro, some local TV personalities expressed the view that the protesters lacked organization and a unifying message.
“A lot of emotion here, but they seem to lack a plan,” WFMY News 2 anchor Frank Mickens said on the air.
Added reporter Meghan Packer, “They haven’t necessarily agreed on the details of what to do. They can’t tell me much more what they’re doing beyond tomorrow.”
One member of the group, Maria Cichetti of Greensboro, posted this tweet on her Twitter account after the president’s visit: “Sad to leave the picket line, but have to go walk and feed the dog.”
As Mr. Obama was leaving town for the next stop, Bank of America reported Tuesday it had third-quarter gains of $6.2 billion. The increase in profits was announced after North Carolina-based Bank of America angered customers by announcing it will charge a $5 fee monthly for debit card purchases beginning next year.
At Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, N.C., Mr. Obama continued to campaign for a piece of his jobs bill that would spend $30 billion to hire more teachers, including about 2,000 in North Carolina. The money would come from a tax increase on Americans earning more than $1 million per year, which the president suggested was a patriotic gesture.
“When you talk to most people who’ve done well, who’ve been blessed by this country, they’re patriots,” Mr. Obama said. “They want to do the right thing. They’re willing to do more.”
After crossing the border into Virginia, the president stopped at Bluestone High School in Skipwith, where he met students and watched a classroom robotics demonstration. After spending Tuesday night in Hampton, Va., Mr. Obama was to complete his three-day swing with a visit to a fire station in North Chesterfield, Va.