LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Growing protests targeting Wall Street and U.S. economic inequality spawned heated rhetoric among politicians on Sunday as organizers planned more demonstrations this week.
“It’s anti-American,” Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “Even though we have our challenges, I believe that the protests are more anti-capitalism and anti-free market than anything else.”
Cain, a businessman who has risen in recent polls among Republicans, said, “We know that the unions and certain union-related organizations have been behind these protests that have gone on, on Wall Street and other parts around the country.
“It’s coordinated to create a distraction so people won’t focus on the failed policies of this administration.” he said.
Fellow Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, appearing with Cain, said, “I think the sad thing is this a natural product of (President Barack) Obama’s class warfare.”
But Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, told ABC’s “This Week,” “I support the message to the establishment, whether it’s Wall Street or the political establishment and the rest, that change has to happen.
“When we said everyone should pay their fair share, the other side (Republicans) said that’s class warfare,” she added. “No, it’s not. It’s the most endearing American value, fairness.”
The Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York last month with a few people has expanded to protests across the country with marches and camps taking shape from Tampa, Florida, to Portland, Oregon, and Los Angeles to Philadelphia.
In Los Angeles, a few thousand protesters occupied the lawn at City Hall over the weekend, with as many as 600 people camping overnight, organizers said.
Actor Danny Glover, broadcaster Keith Olbermann, professor Cornel West and talk show host Tavis Smiley stopped by the protests, organizers said.
In Nashville, Tennessee, demonstrators have begun camping at the Legislative Plaza downtown and say they will not leave until they see things changing.
More than a hundred protesters in Washington gathered at the Occupy DC camp in McPherson Square about two blocks from the White House. They marched to a nearby park to demonstrate without incident, escorted by seven police cars.
Elena Zambrana, 45, said she lost her house in Fairfax, Virginia, to foreclosure.
“It’s too late for me. I already lost my house, but this is for the future generation,” she said. “Before I wouldn’t have questioned things. ... I hope people will see this is not a radical movement. This is the middle class.”
Protests planned this week include demonstrations at the Mortgage Bankers Association meeting in Chicago and an anti-Columbus Day event in New York.
(Reporting by Lily Kuo in Washington, R.T. Watson and Mary Slosson in Los Angeles, Tim Ghianni in Nashville, Karin Matz in Chicago, Kay Henderson in Des Moines; Writing by Karen Brooks. Editing by Peter Bohan and Peter Cooney)
This story corrects the spelling of Cornel West