Occupy Wall Street movement gains support from unions, student groups and community organizers
JAISAL NOOR, FREE SPEECH RADIO NEWS: New York police again mass-arrested protesters with the group Occupy Wall Street [on] Wednesday. This time, about 1,000 people attempted to storm police barricades on Wall Street itself. Protester Emma Tarver describes the incident.
EMMA TARVER, OCCUPY WALL STREET PARTICIPANT: Tonight there was a big demonstration, and afterwards, a bunch of people marched down to Wall Street via Broadway and tried to push their way through the barricade. I was at the front of the line. We [incompr.] There was a bunch of cops standing, blocking off Wall Street, and we tried to push through them. They pulled out their batons and pepper spray almost immediately and just started going at the whole crowd. I got knocked in the shoulder with a baton about two or three times and pepper sprayed in the face. There were also a bunch of arrests, but I don’t know how many.
NOOR: The protesters were a breakaway group from the over 10,000 demonstrators who answered the call put out by New York labor and community groups to support Occupy Wall Street. So far largely absent from the encampment, these groups represent working class New Yorkers hardest hit by the economic downturn and government austerity measures. Since Occupy Wall Street’s launch on September 17, the vast majority of participants have been white youth. But the campers, who seek to end corporate influence in politics and create a more equitable economic system continue to draw more supporters. Transport workers united local 100 was the first major city union to support the protesters, and other labor and community groups have since followed suit. Transit Union member John Bolton says the wealthy need to pay their fair share to fund the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other public services.
JOHN BOLTON, OCCUPY WALL STREET PARTICIPANT: Wall Street doesn’t give a damn about MTA, you know, because they don’t ride the MTA. And so they expect poor people to pay fares which keep going up every year, and that’s just not responsible. And we’ve got to make it possible for everyone to get to where they’re going, get to work. And I work construction, so I’ve seen firsthand the crumbling tunnels, leaks. I’ve seen tracks that need to be replaced. We’re going to have a major incident.
NOOR: Transport union workers who provide transportation for the city filed a lawsuit this week challenging the police commandeering of buses for transferring arrested protesters. A judge denied a temporary injunction but has not ruled on their lawsuit. Five of the estimated 700 arrested last Saturday on the Brooklyn Bridge are seeking a class-action lawsuit against the police department and city, arguing they violated their constitutional rights. Despite the ongoing repression, community organizer Florence Johnson says she’s inspired [that] the protests continue.
FLORENCE JOHNSON, THE FIGHT FOR A FAIR ECONOMY: And I am so damn proud of them for standing up for the rest of us when we didn’t have the courage, when their parents didn’t have the courage or the strength to stand up.
NOOR: Johnson, a native of Jamaica, Queens, is with the group the Fight for a Fair Economy. She says she’s mobilizing communities like her own that have been disproportionately affected by Wall Street excesses.
JOHNSON: The house next-door to me has been abandoned and foreclosed for years and became basically a garbage dump. They just cleaned it out. The house on the opposite side of me, the person who owned it was forced to sell it at a short sale because she just couldn’t pay the mortgage. After five years of paying into the house, she had to get out by the skin of her teeth, lose money, okay, and you’re never supposed to lose money on real estate.
NOOR: Following the economic downturn, New York lawmakers began slashing spending on education and youth job programs. On Friday, more than 700 public school employees working at the city’s neediest schools will lose their jobs. Johnson says poor communities are hit the hardest by lack of investment in education and job creation.
JOHNSON: If you look at my streets, the kids on my streets don’t have jobs. They’re not being educated. I don’t care what Michael Bloomberg says. They are not being educated. And they can’t find jobs.
NOOR: Students at New York city and state universities are also mobilizing. They called for walkouts at campuses across the state Wednesday to protest cuts to higher education. Twenty-two-year-old Manhattan resident Jason Javier has been organizing on campus. He says those most affected are students who come from low-income backgrounds, like the majority who attend the City University of New York.
JASON JAVIER, STUDENT ORGANIZER, UNITED NEW YORK: Now, since CUNY doesn’t have any money, what does that mean? Tuition needs to go up. And there is a plan to increase the tuition $300 per year for the next five years, and then $500 on top of that. So tuition’s going up. Since there’s no money in school, there’s a lot of reduction of resources, including mentors, remedial programs, and just student services, including faculty. You know, so they’re just being attacked from so many different levels.
NOOR: Earlier this year, some New Yorkers carried out another protest encampment called Bloombergville. Dozens camped out for weeks to protest cuts to the city budget. But without meaningful union and community support, the camp was unable to accomplish its goals. Occupy Wall Street protestor Yotam Marom, who took part in Bloombergville, acknowledges these movements need to make sustained efforts to build working class support.
YOTAM MAROM, OCCUPY WALL STREET PARTICIPANT: Basically what the unions and the community groups bring along with them is a lot of people who have been organizing in New York in marginalized communities and a lot of those people who are hardest hit by economic crisis–and also racism and sexism and all the other, like, oppressions that we all face. So those people, they bring that struggle here, and they also bring concrete demands, because they fight around those concrete demands all the time. That’s incredibly important for this kind of movement to face, to ground itself in really concrete struggles that are actually taking place all the time in New York City.
NOOR: Further community mobilizations have been announced throughout the week, including a call for members of Brooklyn’s Haitian community to march to Occupy Wall Street on Friday. And the campers continue to inspire similar actions across the country and globe, from California to Florida, in even Australia and Japan. Reporting for The Real News Network and FSRN, this is Jaisal Noor in New York.
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