Obama fundraising breakfast disrupted by protest

Here’s the pool report filed this morning by the Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci from President Obama’s fundraiser at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco:

A crowd of half a dozen protesters concerned with the Wikileaks story disrupted the Obama event at the St. Regis Hotel, with Oakland activist Naomi Pitcairn organizing the event for the group which calls itself freshjuiceparty.com; she personally paid $76,000 total for tickets for the group to gain entry to the high priced fundraiser, she told us.

The progressive group protested what they called the inhumane treatment of Pvt. Bradley Manning in the Wikileaks case. Their protest song — which included lyrics: “We paid our dues..where’s our change?” — was sung in its entirety for Obama, who thanked them at the end of the a capella performance.

Outside, the group said that they were progressives who had worked for Obama and voted for him in 2008, but who were disappointed not only with Manning’s treatment, but with Obama’s policies on war as well.

The protest began when Pitcairn stood up about 5 minutes into the president’s speech as said, “We wrote a song for you, Mr. President.” When he tried to suggest she wait, the group launched into the ditty, and kept singing for several minutes.

Pitcairn took off her outer shirt to reveal a tee shirt in support of Manning.

The president appeared a little set back by the lengthy song, but he thanked the group — and complimented their voices — at the close. “Where was I?” he said, launching back into his stump speech.

Pitcairn was escorted out, but was not arrested or cited by San Francisco police.

Protesters including UC Santa Cruz art professor Elizabeth Stephens, songwriter Craig Casey, activist Jane Sullivan of Santa Cruz, writer Greg Archer, and David Schiller of Berkeley, as well as organizers from Tony’s Circus, all Bay Area locals. Pitcairn said she was happy to pay the tickets for all of them to enter so they could personally address with president with their concerns.

Diners at the breakfast were assembled around tables of 10 in and upstairs dining room, with stage flanked by a backdrop of California and American flags.

Among the 200 guests at the sold out event: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelsoi, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former San Francsico Mayor Willie Brown, and Governor Jerry Brown.

High end tickets to the Obama Victory Fund breakfast event started at $5,000 and go up to $35,800.

That higher price ticket involves a split between the Organizing for America and the Democratic National Committee. Breakdown of tickets: $5,000 of the cost goes to Organizing for America and represents the maximum legal donation to primary and general election presidential campaign; $30,800 goes to DNC.

DNC would not estimate total raised in the event.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • John W

    She personally paid $76 thousand for the tickets? Who is Naomi Pitcairn?

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    I’m no progressive (a la Oakland/Berkeley) but I sympathize with the Prez. Screen these weirdos! I’d fire a few staffers (“to inspire the others”) to make sure this doesn’t happen again. As for Prisoner Manning, solitary at Pelican Bay might give him time to think. He’s getting off easy, peeling taters at Leavenworth.

  • Bruce Joffe

    I wish you posted a link to hear their song.
    Sounds like a very creative way to publicise an important injustice that needs to be corrected.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Manning is a disgrace to his uniform.

  • me

    RR… you could be a disgrace to the human race…
    You ever wear a uniform??? Probably not. Maybe put on ballarina outfit from time to time??? You ever steal a piece of candy from the supermarket???? Probably.
    Are you a Hypocrite????
    Tell the truth now… God is watching…

  • RR
    Manning is a disgrace?
    You are an idiot.
    Don’t tell anyone I said that. Please.

  • Ralph Hoffmann

    RR, it’s no wonder to anyone why you’re an uninvited columnist.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    To all the members of the Manning fan club: Your other hero, M. Assange, is a big sissy!

  • John W

    Re: Manning comments and especially #6

    Speaking as someone who did wear an Army uniform (in fact, during the time when the Pentagon Papers were released), I don’t know of many people who ever served who would sympathize with Manning, let alone think him some kind of hero. People in uniform get to disobey unlawful orders. In fact, they are supposed to. They don’t get to be muckraking whistleblowers, let alone engage in a conspiracy to release massive amounts of classified and highly sensitive data. Some people, including Daniel Ellsberg himself, have compared Manning’s actions to the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Very different situation. First, Ellsberg was not serving in uniform. Second, the report known as the Pentagon Papers, although classified, was about the history of our involvement in Vietnam. It did not involve contemporaneous classified information, the release of which endangers operatives in the field and our ability to conduct diplomatic relationships with other nations. Manning is going away for a long time. He could make his stay more pleasant if he would cooperate with the investigation. Ellsberg was never convicted of anything, but Manning will be. Had he done this during WW II, he would have been executed. How in the dickens a PFC (third lowest rank) with an ordinary Secret (not Top Secret) clearance ever managed to have access to this information is a whole ‘nother issue.