Labor and Progressive Groups Join Occupy Wall Street in Solidarity March
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Echoing others, Cantor points to three reasons Occupy Wall Street is capturing the national imagination: the resilience protesters have shown in maintaining and growing the occupation; the well-publicized violence by members of the New York Police Department (NYPD) against non-violent protesters; and the unrelenting economic crisis. Occupy Wall Street "didn't cause a crisis - it just exposed the underlying conflict," says James Mumm, Organizing Director for National People's Action. Citing the example of Ella Baker resisting pressure to try to absorb the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) into the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), he said Occupy Wall Street activists "don't need to be co-opted by anybody," but they represent "another constituency or two coming to the movement table."
In a statement, Transit Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 praised "the courage of the young people on Wall Street who are dramatically demonstrating for what our position has been for some time: the shared sacrifice preached by government officials looks awfully like a one-way street." Local 100 has filed a restraining order against the NYPD's occupation of public transit vehicles as paddy wagons. "Our operators are not there to transport folks that are arrested," Local 100 President John Samuelsen told a local TV station, "particularly innocent folks that are arrested. That's particularly appalling to Local 100."
The New York General Assembly, an open decision-making body which meets twice a day in Liberty Park, released its first official statement Thursday, warning that "corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments." It indicts corporations for a string of offenses that include workplace discrimination and resisting collective bargaining. Since taking Liberty Square last month, Occupy Wall Street activists have joined labor protests at Sotheby's and Verizon workers.
While the General Assembly statement, like many activists in interviews, makes no mention of electoral politics or legislation, organizations behind today's march are open about their hopes that the energy of Occupy Wall Street movement, like that of the Tea Party, will be felt in voting booths and legislatures. "You'll never have progressive policy without having progressive candidates elected to office," says Charlie Albanetti, Communications Director for Citizen Action of New York.
Cantor says that in contrast to the Egyptian Revolution, "this is a symbolic protest, not a challenge to the regime so to speak," because "we live in a democracy. We'll know we've succeeded when the values being espoused by the Wall Street protesters find their way into electoral contests, and we put people into office committed to some of the policy reforms they're talking about." Surveying media interviews with participants shows that that's a goal that will be embraced by some Occupy Wall Street participants and dismissed by others. Organizations sponsoring the march pointed to extension of the "millionaire's tax" and creation of public jobs as policies they hope will gain momentum from today's march and the Occupy Wall Street movement.
"There's a commonality of purpose," says Albanetti. "At the very least, there's commonality in what we deem to be the problem." Mumm says visiting Liberty Park conjured decade-old memories of the anti-globalization movement that kept gaining steam following anti-World Trade Organization protests in Seattle but "really collapsed after 9/11." He believes Occupy Wall Street has the potential "to go to the place that the anti-globalization movement ten years ago could have gone, which is to mobilize some constituencies in America that have not worked together the way they have back then."