Obama: Wall St protests show ‘US frustration’

US President Barack Obama said anti-Wall Street protests in New York and beyond were an expression of public anger over the antics of bankers and frustration over the moribund economy.

“I have seen it on TV and I think it expresses the frustration that the American people feel,” Obama said in a White House news conference, when asked about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.

Obama argued that people disliked top bankers and financial firms which caused the crisis trying to fight regulation.

“You’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on abusive practices that got us into this problem in the first place,” he said.

“I think people are frustrated and, you know, the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works.”

Obama argued that with his Wall Street reform bill, his administration had made serious efforts to crack down on irresponsibility in the financial sector that had helped caused the financial crisis.

He also denied that he was by nature, hostile to Wall Street and big business.

“I have said before and I will continue to repeat, we have to have a strong, effective financial sector in order for us to grow,” Obama said.

“I used up a lot of political capital and I’ve got the dings and bruises to prove it in order to make sure that we prevented a financial meltdown and that banks stayed afloat.”

Unions have lent their muscle to the long-running protests against Wall Street and economic inequality, with their members joining thousands of protesters in a lower Manhattan march as smaller demonstrations flourished across the US.

Protesters in suits and T-shirts with union slogans left work early to march with activists camped out in Zuccotti Park for days. Previous marches have resulted in mass arrests. Police said there were about a dozen arrests on Wednesday night, mostly for disorderly conduct.

The protesters have varied causes but have spoken largely about unemployment and economic inequality and reserved most of their criticism for Wall Street. “We are the 99%,” they chanted, contrasting themselves with the wealthiest 1% of Americans.

The Occupy Wall Street protests started on September 17 with a few dozen demonstrators who tried to pitch tents in front of the New York Stock Exchange.

Since then, hundreds have set up camp in Zuccotti Park and have become increasingly organised, lining up medical aid and legal help and printing their own newspaper.

Several Democratic lawmakers have expressed support for the protesters, but some Republican presidential candidates have rebuked them. Herman Cain called the activists “un-American”.

“They’re basically saying that somehow the government is supposed to take from those that have succeeded and give to those who want to protest,” he said.

More in this section

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox