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Demos 'show public's frustration'

Concerns over Wall Street practices and economic inequality that have led to sit-ins and rallies in New York and elsewhere reverberated up to the White House, with President Barack Obama saying the protesters are expressing the frustrations of the American public.

Thousands of protesters, including many in union T-shirts, marched the day before in lower Manhattan, joined by labour leaders who say they will continue to support the protests with manpower and donations of goods and services.

The protests have slowly grown in size and attention over more than two weeks, with the President's acknowledgement at a news conference a sign that they might be gelling into a political movement.

Mr Obama said he understood the public's concerns about how the nation's financial system works and said Americans see Wall Street as an example of the financial industry not always following the rules.

"It expresses the frustrations that the American people feel that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country, all across Main Street," the President said. "And yet you're still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on abusive practices that got us into this problem in the first place."

He said, though, that the US must have a strong and effective financial sector for the economy to grow, and that the financial regulation bill he championed ensures tougher oversight of the financial industry.

Among some protesters, reaction to Mr Obama's acknowledgement was less than enthusiastic.

"His message is that he's sticking to the party line, which is, 'We are taking care of the situation.' But he's not proposing any solutions," said Thorin Caristo, a 37-year-old antique store owner from Connecticut.

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said police will continue to accommodate the protests "as long as they do it peacefully and in accordance with the laws and regulations".

The protesters have varied causes and no apparent demands, but have spoken largely about unemployment and economic inequality, reserving most of their criticism for Wall Street. "We are the 99%," they chanted on Wednesday, contrasting themselves with the wealthiest 1% of Americans.

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