After an afternoon of events in a blue-collar corner of Pennsylvania, President Barack Obama arrived in Manhattan Wednesday evening to court well-heeled supporters at three private fundraisers.
And a few hundred anti-Wall Street protesters marched to greet him here.
The president stopped at a small gathering at a private home, a dinner at Gotham Bar and Grill near Union Square and a reception at the midtown Sheridan. Donation levels started at $1000 dollars a person and topped out at $35,800.
It's that reliance on high-dollar donations that protesters focused on in their march to the Sheridan.
Organizer Ben Campbell says he'll likely vote for Obama next year, but the movement has to call out Republicans and Democrats to be credible.
"You know, in this city that if you're having a 35,000 a plate dinner, that a lot of those people are going to be the Wall Street executives that we've been opposing for months now," he said.
It's the first time protesters in New York have directly targeted a presidential visit. Demonstrators also interrupted the president in New Hampshire last week and a Mitt Romney fundraiser in Tampa Tuesday night.
The New York organizers said the tactic is part of the movement’s long-term strategy of targeting the political status quo, regardless of party.
"It's not so much about left and right as up and down in this country,” organizer Mark Bray said. “Ultimately, regardless of which party we’re talking about, whether it be the Republicans or the Democrats, there’s a serious issue of conflict of interest when we have politicians who derive a large percentage of their campaign contributions from financial institutions and corporations who they’re supposed to be regulating.”
Obama arrived in New York after spending the afternoon in Scranton, Penn., where he met with a local family and gave a speech at Scranton High School to push for an extension of the payroll tax cut that expires at the end of the year.
His focus was the same in the speech last week in New Hampshire that was interrupted by protesters. In that speech, Obama argued the policies he’s pursuing are in line with their arms.
“A lot of the folks who have been down in New York and all across the country, in the Occupy movement, there is a profound sense of frustration,” the president said. “This is a place where your hard work and your responsibility is supposed to pay off. It’s supposed to be a big, compassionate country where everybody who works hard should have a chance to get ahead — not just the person who owns the factory, but the men and women who work on the factory floor.”
In that speech, Obama said he’s trying to offer solutions, but Congress is leaving them on the table.
He ended with a plea to his audience to transform their frustration into pragmatic politics.
“We’ve got to have folks in Washington who have that same belief, that same sense that when this economy is going well it’s going well because it’s going well for everybody,” he said. “That’s what the debates in Washington are all about, and we’ve got to constantly remind ourselves of who we are and what we believe in.”