Protests at Romney fundraisers in Hamptons

More than 160 protesters marched down Meadow Lane

More than 160 protesters marched down Meadow Lane in Southampton to make their voice heard against presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who was to attend a fundraising dinner at the residence of billionaire David Koch. (July 8, 2012) (Credit: Randee Daddona)

About 150 protesters demonstrated outside a Southampton fundraiser Sunday for likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at the home of New York businessman David Koch, chanting "We are the 99 percent" and "Money out, voters in."

Earlier, Romney supporters attended an afternoon fundraising lunch at the East Hampton estate of business magnate Ron Perelman. A small group of protesters there held signs denouncing the event, and two boaters were arrested on charges of violating police orders just offshore. Another event was hosted by Clifford Sobel, an ambassador to Brazil under President George W. Bush.

The evening protest outside the Koch estate was organized by a coalition of liberal groups, including MoveOn.org, the Occupy movement and the Long Island Progressive Coalition, a Massapequa-based nonprofit. Many protesters said the demonstration was less about partisan politics or Romney and more about what they perceive as a broken political system.

Ty Wenzel, a member of Occupy the Hamptons, said Romney and President Obama should reject campaign funds from big-money donors.

"It's the same for Obama and Mitt," said Wenzel, 45, a graphic artist from East Hampton. "It's unconscionable to spend $50,000 for a meal to buy influence. You can really support a family on that."

Most protesters arrived on buses from Manhattan. They marched to about three-quarters of a mile from Koch's estate.

The distance didn't keep some attendees, who paid a reported $50,000 to attend the dinner, from seeing the protesters. The protesters were later allowed on the beach and walked near Koch's property.

New York State Police Capt. David Candelaria said there were no arrests and he had "met in the middle" with protest organizers to allow the demonstration and the event without disruption.

Becky Cole, who said she was associated with Occupy the East End, said state police broke her car window in order to investigate a small wooden box labeled "dynamite" in the trunk of her gray 2000 Volvo. The box was not a threat and contained various items, such as a toothbrush and bug spray. Candelaria verified her account, but declined to comment further. He said police would likely pay for the repairs.

"I understand why they did what they did," said Cole, 55, a furniture refinisher from Shelter Island. "I felt stupid for not taking it out of the car."

A small plane carrying a MoveOn.org banner flew overhead for two hours.

At the earlier Romney fundraiser at Perelman's estate, just a handful of protesters gathered. But in the waters nearby, two men in a small sailboat tried to cross an East Hampton Town Marine Patrol line and were arrested. David A. Fink and Simon V. Kinsella, both of Wainscott, face several related charges.

Guests said they paid thousands to attend the exclusive lunch and photo opportunity.

Lowell Kraff, a merchant banker who waited to enter the Perelman estate -- known as The Creeks -- praised Romney.

"We need a great American like Mitt Romney to take over for the president," Kraff said.

Bob Shainwald, a retired teacher from Southampton, shouted to cars stopped in the traffic on Montauk Highway. "This traffic jam is brought to you by Mitt Romney, who's down the road," Shainwald yelled to drivers. "You're stuck in traffic because the billionaires are having a party."

The occasional driver beeped in support of the protesters.

Shannon Rhea, a dog groomer from Sag Harbor, held a sign that read "Nobody 2012" outside the East Hampton event.

"I want to try to get the public more aware about how invalid our elections are," said Rhea, 41. "We need a systematic change."

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