Wall St. protests spread
New York (CNN) — The Occupy Wall Street protests are scheduled to go on Friday as the grassroots movement continues to grow, spread to other cities and grab the attention of the president.
President Barack Obama said Thursday that the demonstrators are giving a voice to those frustrated with the financial system as protests popped up in more than a dozen American cities.
Speaking at a White House news conference, Obama also defended the country’s financial sector, which appears to have taken the brunt of protester criticism, focusing on Wall Street and its regulators’ purported role in widening economic disparities.
“We have to have a strong, effective financial sector in order for us to grow,” the president said Thursday.
Vice President Joe Biden also weighed in, comparing the protesters to the origins of the tea party, a grassroots political movement that has advocated reductions in government spending and efforts to curb corruption.
“What is the core of that protest? And why is it increasing in terms of the people it’s attracting?” Biden asked rhetorically. “The core is the bargain has been breached with the American people.”
He added that “there’s a lot in common with the tea party.”
The two movements have drawn commentary from liberal and radical conservatives, who in both cases have said there is something fundamentally wrong with America’s financial and political systems.
Friday marks the 21st day of Occupy Wall Street protests, a series of grassroots demonstrations against income inequality, corporate greed and a list of other often loosely defined social ills.
The movement started in New York and some of the protests there have been marred by scuffles with police.
New York authorities set up at least one vehicle checkpoint as police appeared in larger numbers throughout the financial district Thursday and established a perimeter around Zuccotti Park, which is considered a rallying point for the largely leaderless movement in that city.
“We hope that our message continues to resonate with everyone who has felt disenfranchised by the current state of our country,” said Tyler Combelic, a spokesman for the Occupy Wall Street group.
He said they plan to “continue the protest until the message reaches every house in the United States.”
The specifics of that message remains largely unclear.
There were similar gatherings in downtown Philadelphia near City Hall and the Texas cities of San Antonio, Austin, Houston and Dallas. More protests cropped up in Portland, Oregon; San Francisco, Seattle and Tampa, Florida.
Like-minded university students staged walkouts a day before on college campuses such as North Carolina State University and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
More demonstrations took place Thursday in Jersey City, New Jersey, and Los Angeles, where police say 10 people were arrested for trespassing on Bank of America property.
In the nation’s capital, a war protest on Thursday — scheduled the day before the 10-year anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan — quickly turned their concerns to economics.
Several hundred set to demonstrate against wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also echoed the voices of protesters in other cities, even bringing their rally to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce building.
A day before, thousands marched in Lower Manhattan shouting slogans and waving placards as they meandered from Zuccotti Park to Foley Square near City Hall.
Social media sites such as Twitter seemed to be spurring similar protests elsewhere, though in vastly smaller numbers than those in New York. That includes dozens who gathered in Boston; Hartford, Connecticut; and Savannah, Georgia