PHILADELPHIA - As Mitt Romney went on a tour of a charter school in urban Philadelphia, sitting in on a music class and participating in an alliteration exercise with an English class, outside on the curb, at a rally organized by the Obama campaign, the city's mayor and a gaggle of protestors stood infuriated at the candidate's absence on the streets of their city, suggesting it was a failure by the candidate to relate to urban America.
"I am glad the Republican candidate has come to West Philadelphia, but instead of just talking at the school and getting back on his huge bus, he should come out, he should walk 60th Street, he should talk to folks who are out here that are mad so maybe he could understand how real Americans, those that live here in urban America, the issues that are important to us," said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams during a press conference also attended by the city's mayor, Michael Nutter.
"So it's important that he's here, I'm not saying that he shouldn't be here, but it'd be very important if he were to really meet real people and talk to them for more than just a press event," said Williams, who stood flanked by a group of about 50 protestors, holding signs that read "We are the 99 percent" and "In Philly Schools No bullies allowed," a reference to a recent Washington Post article that alleged that Romney was a bully during his own high school years.
Protestors on the street told ABC News that some of them have children who attend the Universal Bluford Charter School, the site of Romney's education roundtable and tour today, but were not invited inside to meet Romney. Today's event marked one of just a handful of Romney's events that have taken place in an urban setting. The event was not open to the public and included only Romney and 11 educational leaders and teachers from the school.
Nutter, repeating many of the Obama campaign's talking points challenging Romney's record in Massachusetts, said that he wasn't sure why Romney came to the city.
"I don't know why this guy's here," said Nutter. "[He] has suddenly somehow found West Philadelphia, somehow now wants to talk about education ," said Nutter.
Talking about Obama, Nutter said the president "spent time in a bunch of cities all across the United States of America, in New York, served in the general assembly, has run this country during the worst recession since the Great Depression and has put millions of people back to work"
"Mitt Romney running his financial services firm put people out of work, damaged Americans, damaged families, caused people to lose their jobs, possibly lose their homes and all of that," said Nutter. "Let's talk about that. You want to have an urban experience? You want to have a West Philly experience? Then come out here and talk to somebody in West Philly." Inside the school, Romney outlined his education platform which promotes school choice and a more stream-lined approach to school report cards and teacher evaluations. Reducing the class sizes, Romney said, was not key to students success, a claim many of the teachers in the roundtable took issue with.
"It's nice that he decided this late in his time to see what a city like Philadelphia is about…It's May," said Nutter. "The election's in November. I'm not sure what he's going to learn here today. I don't know that a one-day experience in the heart of West Philadelphia is enough to get you ready to run the United States of America." The Romney campaign did not immediately respond to a request for a comment regarding Nutter's press conference and the protest.