BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Governor Deval Patrick surprised Occupy Boston protesters on Saturday, showing up at their headquarters in Dewey Square.
Organizers say Patrick called the group Friday to schedule the trip.
“He was just really interested in the range of people here and how we work,” said media volunteer Acacia Brewer. “We hope that he decides he’s on our side he said he’s still deciding but we hope to have him back us.”
The visit was not listed on Patrick’s public agenda, and organizers say they did not want his trip to be about media attention.
The governor said he wasn’t trying to convey a message with the appearance Saturday, just better understand what’s happening.
Patrick stopped by the Dewey Square protest location at about noon.
Several people thanked him for coming, but a heckler also accused the wealthy former executive of being part of the problem.
Patrick said after walking through the camp that he better understands the range of views, and was sympathetic to concerns about unemployment, health care and the influence of money in politics.
Patrick said his visit wasn’t meant to convey any particular message.
“I’m just trying to understand,” he said. “There’s such a range of issues and interests, and you can’t get it all, necessarily, from the media.”
Patrick said the group appeared to represent views from across the political spectrum.
“The fact they are coming together, trying to find consensus on a few issues, is pretty darn exciting,” he said.
The governor said he had no opinion on whether the protesters should be allowed to remain in the square indefinitely.
“It’s not my issue,” he said. “I don’t run the Greenway.”
Asked if he was worried about the extra expenses incurred by the group, for things such as police overtime, Patrick said, “I know the mayor (Boston Mayor Thomas Menino) is concerned about that, but the mayor is also respectful of the interests of the people who are here.”
Patrick was greeted warmly by numerous protesters who thanked him for the visit, but he was also dogged by 43-year-old Barry Knight of Hartford, Tenn., who said he’d been part of Occupy Boston for more than a week.
Knight repeatedly and loudly pointed out that Patrick, a wealthy former corporate executive, had a home worth millions of dollars.
“Deval Patrick is part of the 1 percent!” he said as Patrick spoke nearby with others. “He’s no friend of anybody but himself! Deval Patrick is representing corporate America!”
Patrick said he had no response to Knight. When asked if he was part of the 1 percent, Patrick said, “I think one message that’s coming through here is we need to come together.”
WBZ-TV’s Alana Gomez reports
The governor’s visit came a few hours before Occupy Boston members and other protesters marched from Park Street, near the Statehouse, to Dewey Square.
The first part of the march was led by an anti-war coalition, but numerous other causes had their say, from pro-environment to anti-corporation groups.
Hundreds participated in the rally and made stops at a military recruitment center, Verizon store, and Bank of America.
One marcher, 27-year-old Amy Fisher, who works at a Boston restaurant, said she was alienated from politics and frustrated by a growing income gap in the country.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Mark Katic reports
“I’m really sick of nothing happening to reduce income disparity,” she said. “I think it’s going to just get worse and worse and worse until violence takes over.”
Jim Recht, 52, Massachusetts chairman of Physicians for a National Health Program, said his family’s income put him in the top 2 percent of earners, but “we believe we should be taxed more than we are now, and there should be a different distribution of resources.”
Eric Payson, a volunteer for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign, said he supported the anti-war part of the march but didn’t back Occupy Boston because they’re blaming corporations for numerous problems and not asking people to take personal responsibility.
Payson, a 26-year-old Ashland resident, said the movement seemed untethered to any one political group.
“These people are kind of lost,” he said. “They don’t really have a party.”
Skeptics have criticized the Occupy movement for its lack of clear goals, but organizers said they are working on narrowing down their demands.
“When you have so many different people and the number we have, it’s not going to be easy,” said Brewer. “We’re just trying to get them [demands] down to a smaller sort of set list we can all agree on.”
WBZ-TV’s Alana Gomez contributed to this report.
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