(CNN) - As hundreds of "Occupy" demonstrators across the country take to the streets on the movement's so-called "Day of Action," GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich came out in full support of cities cracking down on the protesters.
"Every city government has an absolute obligation to enforce the rule of law and to protect private property," Gingrich said at a campaign stop in Jacksonville, Florida. "And frankly, they ought to be filming these people, and every person who engages in violence ought to be given a very long vacation from the streets."
Hundreds of demonstrators and police clashed on the streets of Lower Manhattan on Thursday, as supporters of the movement gathered en masse just days after being evicted from their former encampment at Zuccotti Park.
Waves of protesters across the country also assembled in solidarity with those in New York, where more than 175 people were arrested on Thursday.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said "some protesters today deliberately pursued violence," but added that most were peaceful and have "caused minimal disruptions to our city."
Speaking to a crowd of tea party supporters, Gingrich described the "Occupy Wall Street" movement as destructive, hostile and filled with "anti-civilization" behavior.
He compared it to the tea party movement, which he called "constructive to get America on track," and said there could not be a stronger distinction between the two groups.
"They want to tear down our country," Gingrich said. "We love and want to rebuild our country. That's the difference."
The movement started out as a group of demonstrators on Wall Street upset over unemployment and the economy. It has since expanded to cover a variety of issues, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Similar protests have popped up in cities around the world, some of which have been marked by violence.
Gingrich, who's now virtually tied with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in national polls, said he understands why people are angry - but that they're directing their ire toward the wrong people.
"I think it's reasonable for Americans to be angry, but I would say to them, 'Why don't you go to the Federal Reserve building? Why don't you go to the U.S. Treasury? Why don't you visit Chris Dodd and Barney Frank?'"
But Gingrich soon experienced his own "Occupy" force, himself, as a handful of protesters crashed the event at the end of his nearly 90-minute long appearance on stage.
"We are the 99 percent," they repeated, drowning out Gingrich's speech.
But the former House Speaker quickly fired back, saying he wanted to respond right away and spoke loudly into his microphone.
"There is no such thing in America as 99 percent. We are all 100 percent Americans," Gingrich said, as the tea party supporters in the crowd stoop up and cheered. "We are all part of America."
He then handed over his microphone and walked into the enthusiastic audience.