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San Francisco Rally for the American Dream Draws Thousands, Demanding Economic Rights and Opportunity

AlterNet spoke with some of the attendants who came on Saturday to stand up for the middle class and the democracy protests in Wisconsin.

A MoveOn organizer tells AlterNet that at least 50,000 people came out in the streets across the country for today's Rally to Save the American Dream. Old and young, rich and poor, they braved the cold to stand with embattled public workers and raise their voices against the GOP's merciless budget cuts – cuts that would drive the economy deeper into recession.

Earlier, US UNCUT – a new grass-roots movement with the simple message that we shouldn't be cutting services while corporate tax cheats dodge their responsibilities – engaged in civil disobedience at Bank of America branches across the country. They pointed out that anyone with a dollar in their pocket has more money than the mega-bank paid in federal taxes last year.

Outside the San Francisco Civic Center, one of the dozens of protests in all 50 states drew a boisterous crowd of approximately 2,000 people. AlterNet interviewed a cross-section of the protesters about why they had come, what they knew of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's union-busting bill and where they got their information.

Only two of the 12 participants with whom we spoke had a clear picture of the details of Wisconsin's union-busting bill, but all of the people who turned out on this chilly day told AlterNet that they understood that the states' budget woes are being used as a premise for breaking the unions. None of them relied on the corporate media for their information.

Elaine, 61, is a nurse from Berkeley, California. She's not a member of a union.


Why are you here?

I think that collective bargaining is something people fought and died for. That's why we have a weekend, that's why we get to go home at night and make dinner. If we didn't have collective bargaining, or a labor movement or unions, we'd all be working 14 hour days, 6 or maybe even 7 days a week.

Where do you get your information?

I didn't know very much until I listened to Democracy, Now! And then I learned the kinds of things [Walker] was trying to do—disassembling the cabinet and appointing his own people, making it so he could give really big contracts without oversight and taking away people's negotiating rights. So, I feel like I'm moderately well informed, but I didn't get that information from television.

Joel, 68, is a retired teacher who was a union member during his career. He lives in Berkeley, California.



Why are you here?

I oppose what's going on in Wisonsin and I oppose what's going on with workers across the United States.

Where do you get your info?

The mainstream coverage is very lousy. I checked the MSM and saw very little. I get my information from Lawrence O'Donnel, KPFA and NPR. 

What about Governor Walker's claim that his hand is being forced by the budget deficit?

I don't agree with that. I think he's just another pawn for the Koch brothers and all these corporations.

Douglas, 64, is a non-union computer engineer from San Francisco



Why are you here?

I'm down here because I'm against what's going on in Washington with the Tea Party. I was totally against the tax cuts given to the rich and the bailouts of the corporations. Also: the tendency of the new House to vote with corporations and the rich and to deny most of the American people of their right to be part of the American Dream.

Where do you get your information?

I get almost all of the information that I depend on off of public stations and C-Span – media that I consider to be independent of the monied interests.

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