S.C. protesters disrupt Michele Bachmann speech

MOUNT PLEASANT, South Carolina Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:25pm EST

U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann arrives to speak at the annual Republican Party of Iowa Ronald Reagan Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, November 4, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young

U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann arrives to speak at the annual Republican Party of Iowa Ronald Reagan Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, November 4, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

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MOUNT PLEASANT, South Carolina (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann was about 10 minutes into a foreign policy speech in South Carolina on Thursday when she was drowned out by the shouting of protesters.

About 30 people rose in unison and began shouting a scripted message during Bachmann's address aboard the USS Yorktown, a World War Two aircraft carrier.

The group, which later identified itself as being part of Occupy Charleston, accused Bachmann of "dividing Americans" and promoting discrimination.

"You cater to the 1 percent," they yelled.

Bachmann stopped speaking and was escorted from the stage by law enforcement officers. After about three minutes, the protesters shouted: "Have a pleasant day," and marched out chanting "We are the 99 percent."

"We're Americans criticizing her. We're just getting our voices heard," said a young woman who wouldn't give her name. "She's getting her voice heard. Why can't I have my voice heard?"

The "Occupy" protesters, active in a number of cities in recent weeks, criticize economic inequality, saying the top 1 percent of Americans have too much wealth and power.

Bachmann, a U.S. congresswoman from Minnesota, quickly returned to finish her speech.

"Don't you love the First Amendment?" she said.

Bachmann went on to criticize President Barack Obama for what she said was "a never-before-seen reduction of resources during wartime."

"We oppose the administration's assault on national security," she said.

But she also said the military can't be exempt from budget cuts and that military procurement procedures should be examined for wasteful spending. And she suggested cuts in health care benefits for military retirees.

"Like the private sector, health care benefit costs for military retirees continue to rapidly increase," she said.

Afterward, Bachmann told reporters the protesters who interrupted her had the right to do so. But she said they were "disrespectful and ignorant" to do it on Thursday, the 236th birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps and a day before Veterans Day.

"I just hope that someday they come to understand what's been done for them, how their liberties were paid for with a very heavy price by the people in that room," she said, referring to the veterans who attended the speech.

Bachmann supporter Pat Hemberger didn't have much patience for the young protesters.

"Not one of them pays taxes, and their parents are paying for their education," said Hemberger, who attended the speech. "I don't understand where they're coming from. They don't even have a job yet."

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jerry Norton)

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