Millionaire's March: Protesters Hit the Streets in NY and Visit the 1 Percent at Their Homes
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It was like an alien invasion. In fact, it was an alien invasion. Thousands of regular people -- the kind without homes in the Hamptons, yachts or private planes -- marching past some of the country's most privileged addresses.
If there's a neighborhood the 1 percent call home, it's New York City's Upper East Side. Fatcats like Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, billionaire financier David Koch, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and hedge funder John Paulson hang their hats there. And they got paid a visit. From the rest of America.
Yesterday's "Millionaire's March," dedicated to the radical idea of asking the rich to pay their fair share of taxes during a time of economic hardship, included Occupy Wall Street protestors from Zuccotti Park, along with community groups, labor unions, and people who just wanted to show their solidarity. The marchers were young, old, black, white, and certainly weren't dominated by what David Brooks contemptuously called "pierced anarchists" in his New York Times smear piece yesterday.
Their plan was simple: Expose the actors who work to produce and maintain gross inequality and demand real economic change. No more. No less.
The march kicked off at 59th Street and 5th Avenue. I was a bit late arriving, so I followed the trail of police officers strewn like breadcrumbs along the sidewalk over to Park Avenue, where I noticed a young man wearing a Wisconsin cheese hat trying to give an interview to a TV reporter. He found himself accosted by a well-coifed, gym-toned woman in her 50s -- presumably a resident -- who lectured the young man in high decibels: "We have to give Obama the Congress he deserves! OK? It's not the president's fault! OK? He doesn't want the economy to look like this! Stop blaming Obama!" When she stopped for a breath, the bewildered Wisconsinite asked, "Who said anything about Obama?"
This moment spoke volumes. A wealthy New York liberal talked without listening and assumed she knew why the protesters were there. She reeked of defensiveness and clearly felt the sign-carrying crowds were a personal affront. The lady protested a bit too much.
I made my way to the crowd, past Upper East Siders staring out of the windows and grand entrances of their posh abodes looking bemused, curious, shocked, a little frightened and sometimes even supportive of the protesters who had the temerity to suggest that they, too, deserved to share in the nation's vast wealth.
A chic young mother turned to a puzzled daughter in a tony school uniform, "People don't have jobs right now," she explained. Whether Mom connected this fact to the actions of any of her neighbors was anyone's guess.
Blessed by perfect weather, the march was upbeat, accompanied by a marching band that did a lively rendition of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Going to Take It!" In between songs, protestors chanted "What happens on Wall Street won't stay on Wall Street!" and "How do we end this de-fi-cit? End the wars and tax the rich!"
I kept trying to figure out whose houses we were passing, but I was too far away to hear the announcer. Until we got to Jamie Dimon's pad at 1185 Park Avenue. At that point the crowd began to shout the name of the person who seemed to raise the most ire. "No more tax breaks for Jamie Dimon!" they yelled. "Want to leave the country because of regulations? We'll help you pack!" Protestors called for the big-mouthed banker -- who recently called bank regulations "unAmerican" -- to come out and show his face, but unsurprisingly Mr. Dimon, despite his $4.6 billion donation to the NYPD Police Foundation last spring, did not make an appearance. One protester claimed to have the number of Dimon's secretary, which she urged marchers to call.