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Obama, interrupted

From NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli and NBC's Lauren Appelbaum
ST. PETERSBURG, FL -- About seven minutes into his remarks here, Obama was interrupted by a handful of African-American demonstrators, who stood up in the last row of a section of bleachers behind him and held up a sign that said: "What about the black community, Obama." It had a link to a Web site, http://www.uhurunews.com/, which calls itself the "Online Voice of the International African Revolution."

VIDEO: A group of hecklers disrupt a Barack Obama town hall in St. Petersburg, Fl. Obama later takes a question from one of the group.

Obama eventually stopped speaking, turned around, and said, "Excuse me, young men. This is going to be a question-and-answer session, so you can ask a question later. Let me make my statement. Why don't you all sit down? Then you can ask your question. That's why we're having a town hall meeting. Sit down. You'll have a chance to answer your question. But you don't want to disrupt the whole meeting. Just be courteous. That's all. All you got to do is be courteous. That's all. Just be courteous and you'll have a chance to make your statement."

The men eventually sat down and their sign was taken away by those sitting nearby, and eventually a campaign staffer took it away.

*** UPDATE *** Per NBC's Lauren Appelbaum, Obama eventually took a question from one of these protestors. Here's the exchange:
Obama: I'm going to call on these young men. Just one of you. All right? And remember, I made a promise to you. But also I want you to give your mike back after you ask your question or make your comment.
 
Protestor: So my question is: In the face of the numerous attacks that are made against the African community or the black community, by the same US government that you aspire to lead -- and we are talking about attacks like the subprime mortgage that you spoke of -- it wasn't just a general ambiguous kind of phenomena, a phenomena that targeted the African community and Latino community, attacks like the killing of Sean Bell by the New York police department and right here in St. Petersburg by the St. Petersburg police, and Jena 6 and Hurricane Katrina, and the list goes on. In the face of all these attacks that are clearly being made on the African community, why is it that you have not had the ability to not one time speak to the interests and even speak on the behalf of the oppressed and exploited African community or black community in this country?
 
Obama: Well, I, ah, I guess, I... Hold on a second, everybody. I want everybody to be respectful. That's why we are having a town hall meeting. That's democracy at work. And he asked a legitimate question, so I want to give him an answer.

I think you are misinformed about when you say not one time. Every issue you've spoken about, I actually did speak out about. I'm going to go through the various specific examples. I've been talking about predatory lending for the last two years in the United States Senate and worked to pass legislation to prevent it when I wan in the state legislature. And I have repeatedly said that many of the predatory loans that were made in the mortgage system did target African American and Latino communities. I've said that repeatedly.

Number two, Jena Six -- I was the first candidate to get out there and say this is wrong, that there's an injustice that's been done and we need to change it. That's number two.

When Sean Bell got shot, I put out a statement immediately saying this is a problem. (Protestors yell out something inaudible.) I'm sorry, wait, wait, wait, don't start, hold on, don't start, you know shouting back, I'm just answering your question. On each of these issues, I've spoken out. Now, I may not have spoken out the way you would have wanted me to speak out, which is fine.

More from Obama: Here's what I'm suggesting. What I'm suggesting is that on each of these issues that you mentioned, I have spoken out and I have spoken out forcefully. I was a civil-rights lawyer. I have passed, I passed -- hold on a second -- I passed the first racial profiling legislation in Illinois. I passed, I passed some of the toughest death penalty reform legislation in Illinois. So, these are issues I've worked on for decades. Now, that doesn't mean I'm always going to satisfy the way you guys want these issues framed. I understand that, which gives you the option of voting for somebody else. It gives you the option of running for office yourself. Those are all options. But the one thing that I think is important, the one thing that I think is important is that we're respectful towards each other. And what is true is I believe that the only way we're going to solve our problems in this country... The only way were going to solve our problems in this country is if all of us come together -- black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, young, old, disabled, gay, straight. That I think has got to be our agenda.