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President Obama rallies LA crowd, defends record

April 21, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
After receiving an enthusiastic welcome by celebrity Jamie Foxx, the President Barack Obama took the stage at a fundraiser in Culver City and rallied the crowd of about 2,500 as he defended his record.

"We had to make some tough decisions, but two and a half years later, the economy is growing again," the president told an electrified crowd. "Two and a half years later, we're creating jobs again. Two and a half years later, the financial system works again."

The president spoke at a fundraiser at Sony Pictures Studios at about 7:15 p.m.

After the fundraiser in Culver City, Obama attended a private fundraiser at a restaurant in Brentwood.

Fundraisers in Southern California have generated millions for Obama's campaign. The president was holding six fundraisers over the course of his three-day West Coast trip, aimed at high-dollar donors and young people, both of whom will be integral to a campaign that could set fundraising records.

Many people were excited for the visit, but they worried about the potential for gridlock. It's the frustrating downside to a visit from the commander in chief.

Parking bans and potential street closures were sprinkled throughout the Westside on Thursday. Parking enforcement officers were pasting tickets on windshields throughout the day. Tow trucks were busy as well clearing roads along potential presidential routes.

According to the California Highway Patrol, a few ramps on Interstate 405 were temporarily closed Thursday for the presidential motorcade, causing minor traffic backups.

During the rush hour, there were reports of bumper-to-bumper conditions on Olympic Boulevard.

Obama's visit last August caused major gridlock on the Westside, stretching commutes that would normally take 45 minutes into several hours. In his next visit, the president used a helicopter for portions of his trip, which reduced some of the traffic congestion.

"They're saying that they're going to try and be a little more conscious and careful about it this time, but who knows," said Paul Smith of Culver City.

Local leaders hoped better coordination with the Secret Service would minimize traffic problems.

"They are sensitive to our needs, and my hope is the sensitivity will actually mean less gridlock," said L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl. "But you know, the Westside is gridlocked as it is."

The president is scheduled to depart from LAX at 9 a.m. Friday.

Protesters gather as Obama arrives

Protesters with different messages gathered in Culver City to meet President Obama's motorcade.

Hundreds of Armenian Americans demand justice for the genocide of their people almost a century ago.

"We're all terribly disappointed with President Obama," said protester Harut Sassounian. "He gave a promise to acknowledge a genocide, he criticized President Bush for not doing it, and yet he did the same thing."

About 1.5 million Armenians were massacred by the Ottoman Turks in 1915. The Armenian community says Obama is holding back labeling the massacre a genocide for politics reason.

Another group of protesters with a different message for the president were dressed in caps and gowns to symbolize higher education. They urged the president to stop the deportation of undocumented students.

"Deporting undocumented students would essentially halt their dreams of becoming part of this society, of putting back what they learned within the educational system," said protester Tony Ortuno.