The small crowd gathered outside the West Palm Beach courthouse at noon today was sweaty and subdued. Holding signs urging people to "Stand With the President: Support Wall Street Reform!" the ten protesters -- polite, mostly middle-aged, in shorts and sneakers -- drew mixed reactions.
"Yes We Can bankrupt America," one woman told a friend as she hustled by.
"I don't want Obama -- he's wrecking my business," shouted another man.
Less than two years after fury at the robber barons of Wall Street helped fill a football stadium with cheering Obama fans, this is what a pro-Obama protest looks like. His faithful
minions were trying to rally support for his proposals to regulate the financial industry.
But they struggled, partly because it was unclear precisely which proposals they were backing. Legislators on Capitol Hill are still debating whether to break up some of the big banks once deemed too big to fail, and there are many versions of "reform" bills floating around the Hill.
Still, the protesters made it clear they never want to bail out a failed bank again.
"Look at the money the banks have been making since the bailout," said Lisa Beers, a tiny, red-haired Jupiter resident. "People who destroyed financial institutions and people's entire nest eggs -- for them to be getting $30 million, $40 million bonuses, it's absurd."
Beers, who sells long-term care insurance for a living, was eagerly handing a cell phone to passersby, asking them to call Sen. George LeMieux and express their support for Obama's proposals.But she said she was only having about a 50 percent success rate. "I'm sort of relentless," she laughed.
Meanwhile, Robert Lieberman, 60, of West Palm Beach, has been reading Michael Lewis' Wall Street expose, Liar's Poker, and getting incensed. "I liken what these [bankers] are doing to barbarians that have gotten inside the gates," he said. "It's like criminals... that wear suits."
"Couldn't agree more," said in a man in suit, who caught sight of the protesters' signs on his way out of the courthouse.
He gave them a thumbs-up. But he couldn't be bothered to make a phone call to LeMieux right then. He took the paperwork they handed him and walked away.