By Jill Colvin and Olivia Scheck
MANHATTAN — President Barack Obama, who had so far stayed mum on the Occupy Wall Street protests, broke his silence on the issue during an address on jobs Thursday morning.
"I think it expresses the frustrations that the American people feel," the president said of the Downtown demonstration, which began on Sept. 17 and spread to cities throughout the nation, according to NBC New York. "People are frustrated and the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works."
Though he has sometimes been the subject of the protesters’ ire, Obama seemed to express sympathy with their positions in his statements from the East Wing of the White House.
“Americans understand that not everybody has been following the rules,” he said, according to The New York Times. “These days a lot of folks that are doing the right thing aren’t rewarded, and a lot of folks who aren’t doing the right thing are rewarded.”
Republican Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Herman Cain were less understanding, according to reports.
"Don't blame Wall Street, don't blame the big banks. If you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself!" Cain told the Wall Street Journal in a filmed interview, at one point suggesting that the demonstrations were a “planned and orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration.”
Romney earlier condemned the protests as “dangerous” and “class warfare,” according to CBS.
Closer to home, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and community leaders have complained that the demonstrations, based out of Zuccotti Park, have placed an unfair burden on nearby residents.
"We have every reason to be proud of the job the NYPD does," Bloomberg told reporters at a press conference in Midtown.
While protesters have the right to demonstrate, they "don't have the right to charge at police officers like we saw the other day,” he added. “There's a line that you can't cross."
Still, the mayor seemed to empathize with the protesters' frustrations.
“It is the seeming inability of government to pull together and to come up with ways to fix our problems that are the most frustrating,” he said.
“People are upset. They don’t quite know where to go.”
Nine demonstrators were arrested Wednesday night after attempting to cross a police barrier at the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street, police said. An additional 18 people were arrested that evening, as thousands marched from Foley Square to the Financial District in the biggest demonstration since the Occupy Wall Street protests began.