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Carney: Obama Still Behind "Occupy" Protests

Q On the Occupy protests, you described the President’s tolerance for them and the right to speak out. What is the President telling mayors who say that they are now facing expense, the local law enforcement that are trying to clear these areas and running into violence -- what does the President say to them? Just suck it up and bear the cost and the price of free speech?

MR. CARNEY: I think you’re presupposing conversations that you may imagine have taken place but I don’t know that they have.

Q -- say yesterday?

MR. CARNEY: I don’t know that that kind of conversation took place.

Q What did he say?

MR. CARNEY: Look, I think that as has been true
throughout our history, there is a tradition of protest and demonstration, and exercise of free speech and expression, and it obviously has to be done in a lawful way and it has to be done appropriately. But the frustration that is felt by the -- demonstrated by the people who are out there is something the President fully understands, and it goes to the heart of what we’ve been discussing today and what we’ve been discussing frequently here about persistently high unemployment, about growth that’s too slow, and about the dysfunctionality of Congress, the fact that Congress won’t take action -- that their jobs proposals largely, even if you think they’re good ideas, won’t have an effect for a year or two or three, if they’re positive at all.

And our point is the American people can’t wait. It is not -- the status quo at 9.1 percent is not acceptable.

Q There is a tradition of civil disobedience, too. Does the President think that prolonged street demonstrations or sit-ins are worth the cost of that kind of free expression -- even when it burdens cities that are really strapped otherwise?

MR. CARNEY: Again, broadly -- I mean, I’m not going to get into assessments of individual cities and how they’re responding, or what their cost burden is. The President has said that he understands people’s frustrations. He understands that those frustrations are felt very broadly by the American people -- at least those frustrations that have to do with the fact that the economy isn’t strong enough, the fact that unemployment is too high, and the fact that Washington is dysfunctional because of obstructionism by Republicans in Congress.

I mean, to the extent that this has to do with Wall Street specifically, we have a situation happening in Congress now where Republicans explicitly say they seek to dismantle or water down the Wall Street reforms that the President fought hard to put into place -- that are common-sense answers to the problems that existed that allowed the kind of behavior that contributed to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Q Are local officials allowed to have frustrations, too?

MR. CARNEY: Of course they are.

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