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

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.

What does your sign mean?

I think a lot of people have been hoodwinked in the last election. They were sold a bill of goods, they were lied to and deceived and I think people are starting to realize that the tea parties are not for the people but for the big corporations. The whole tea party was backed by big oil interests like the Koch brothers. And basically, the big polluters.

Angela, 50, is a non-union independent construction contractor. She lives in Sonoma County, and made the trip down to San Francisco for the protest.


When was the last time you attended a demonstration?

Oh, it was a few years ago -- against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Why are you here?

I think people who were already aware are realizing that now is the time when you don't step up and speak – and try to fight what's happening with these republicans in office, we're going to be in a lot of trouble.

Jane, 30, was a social worker, but is now back in school. She lives in San Francisco, and gets most of her information from the Huffington Post and emails blasted out by groups like and True Majority. She last attended an anti-war protests 2 years ago.


Why are you here?

I wanted to support the protesters in Wisconsin. And I'm tired of cutting programs that end up hurting the middle class and the poor. I think we spend far too much on the military budget. And I think the world is showing us that we don't need to “fight for democracy” and kill their people. We see that in Egypt and elsewhere. So, it's time to cut the military spending and not the programs.

Carlos, 29, is a security officer from Oakland, and a “proud union member.”


Why are you here?

The situation in Wisconsin – if we let that happen in that state it will carry over. There's no way the government should take away that right (to bargain collectively) away.

How do you think the mainstream news media have covered this issue?

The media is switching the message around so the message is confused. And the thing is that it's the people who are suffering. And if you look at Fox News or the corporate media – when they talk about unions, they put it in a way that doesn't reflect that the unions are basically the people. They treat it as just an entity.


On the podium, a series of progressive activists outlined the theme of the day: this is the beginning, not the end. Everyone we met today agreed.


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