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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top Republican in Congress referred on Friday to Wall Street protesters as "growing mobs" that are trying to divide the country.
In a speech to social conservatives, House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor said: "I for one am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country."
The Occupy Wall Street movement, which began last month in New York, has spread to cities across the United States. The loosely formed group is tapping into anger over a high unemployment rate following the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The movement included rallies this week in Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, Austin, Texas; Tampa, Florida; Washington; Trenton and Jersey City in New Jersey.
Up to 1,000 people gathered to protest on Thursday in Philadelphia, and hundreds turned out in Washington and Houston. Rallies in Chicago, San Antonio and Austin attracted dozens of people.
On Thursday, President Barack Obama, during a news conference, said, "I think people are frustrated and ... the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works."
In his Friday speech, Cantor appeared to take a swipe at Obama's comments.
"Believe it or not, some in this town have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans," Cantor told the "Values Voters Summit."
Cantor's remarks drew mostly silence from the crowd of several hundred people.
Reporting by Thomas Ferraro; editing by Philip Barbara