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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 and 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 included 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 the president with their concerns.
Diners at the breakfast were assembled around tables of 10 in an upstairs dining room, with a 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 Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, and Gov. Jerry Brown.
High end tickets to the Obama Victory Fund breakfast event started at $5,000 and went 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.
Carla Marinucci, senior political writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote this story as the pool reporter traveling with President Barack Obama during his tour of San Francisco.