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Friday, 7 October 2011

Wall Street protest grows to "occupy" Washington against corporate greed

Wall Street protest grows as unions swell ranks

An Occupy Wall Street protester marches up Broadway in New York City, October 5, 2011. Protesters, who have staged demonstrations about the power of the financial industry and other issues and who have camped in Zuccotti Park near Wall street for nearly three weeks were joined by hundreds of Union members in a march and demonstration through lower Manhattan. [Photo/Agencies]

* Protests in New York number at least 5,000 * Regular American workers bolster protest numbers

NEW YORK - Anti-Wall Street demonstrations swelled on Wednesday, as nurses, transit workers and other union members joined a rally at the heart of New York's financial district to complain about unfairness in the US economy.

College students walked out of classes in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has grown in less than three weeks from a ragged group in downtown Manhattan to protesters of all ages demonstrating from Seattle to Tampa.

The protesters object to the Wall Street bailout in 2008, which they say left banks enjoying huge profits while average Americans suffered under high unemployment and job insecurity with little help from the federal government.

By late afternoon the crowd in New York numbered at least 5,000 and was growing. Union members made up a good portion of the demonstration, which was more than twice as large as the largest previous crowd last weekend of about 2,000.

Protesters carried signs reading "Jobs Not Cuts" and "Stop Corporate Greed" and chanted "Wall Street is our street" and "All day, all week, occupy Wall Street."

"Our workers are excited about this movement. The country has been turned upside down. We are fighting for families and children," said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

Along with the swelling numbers in New York and smaller protests springing up in other US cities, there were signs the protesters are winning broader support.

US Representative Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat, endorsed the movement.

"The gap between the haves and have nots continues to widen in the wake of the 2008 recession, precipitated by the banking industry. Yet we are told we cannot afford to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires," she said in a statement. "I'm so proud to see the Occupy Wall Street movement standing up to this rampant corporate greed."

The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, Communications Workers of America and the Amalgamated Transit Union joined the New York march, as did the nation's largest union of nurses, National Nurses United.

Students on college campuses added their voices. At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, students walked out of their classrooms at noon, holding signs reading "Eat the Elite" and "We Can Do Better than Capitalism."

The protests began in New York on Sept 17 and have spread to Los Angeles, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Tampa, St. Louis and elsewhere. A protest in planned in Washington on Thursday.

The protests have been largely peaceful, although last Saturday in New York, more than 700 people were arrested when demonstrators blocked traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge.

In San Francisco on Wednesday, a crowd of several hundred marched in a loop around the financial district, chanting "They got bailed out, we got sold out" and "Join our ranks, stop the banks." Union nurses had a large presence at the protest.

"This is the beginning of a movement," said Sidney Gillette, a nurse at Children's Hospital in Oakland.

In Boston, protesters have set up a makeshift camp in the financial district. Retired teacher Frank Mello said he joined the movement to "demonstrate that we are stronger when we are united and Wall Street is as powerful as we allow them to be."

In Chicago, where dozens of protesters have gathered at the heart of the financial district every day, banging drums and holding up signs, office worker Tom McClurg, 52, said Wednesday was the first day he had joined the group.

"I'm hoping it's going to raise awareness here of people's opposition to domination by financial interest of their elected representatives," he said, adding, "I think there are a million times more people not here who are sympathetic."
Camped out in Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan, the New York protesters have sometimes been dismissed by Wall Street passersby or cast in the mainstream media as naive students and mischief makers without realistic goals. Members of the group have vowed to stay through the winter.

Protesters to "occupy" Washington against corporate greed


WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- As ranks of protesters grew in New York in the "Occupy Wall Street" demonstration, protesters are also converging in U.S. capital Washington D.C. for a planned " Occupy D.C." rally on Thursday, which is to take place at Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Organizers told Xinhua that the rally is aimed at raising awareness of the American people in fixing the political system corrupted by corporate greed, and concentrating attention on people's needs.

Lisa Simeone, a spokesperson with the October 2011 movement, which is central in organizing the rally, said the protest has been in the making for about a year, and was scheduled to coincide with the start of the Afghanistan War. After the "Occupy Wall Street" movement in the U.S. city of New York took place, they decided to join the many occupations that's been going on around the country.

"Our main focus is that we are against corporatism and militarism," said Simeone in a telephone interview on Wednesday with Xinhua. She said that protesters want money out of politics, tax the rich and corporations, as well as cut military spending, end the wars and bring the troops home.

"People come to the rally for a lot of reasons," Jeremy Ryan, an activist participating in the rally told Xinhua in an earlier interview, noting many come because they are angry that big corporations are having too much influence on Washington politics.

"The over-arching theme" of the rally, said Simeone, is "human needs, jobs, homes, education, health care, not corporate greed."

Just like the New York demonstrations, which has been going on for weeks, the Washington rally is not likely to last only one day. Simeone said that they look at the rally as a beginning, not the end, and they will "occupy" Freedom Plaza, possibly for weeks to come.

"This isn't the be all and end-all resistance in this country," she said, noting that they want to create both philosophical and physical space for people to "realize they have to take this country back."

Simeone said that she doesn't know how long the occupation will go on or what the next steps will be.

"I do know whenever it ends, we are not going to stop acts of civil disobedience, and various acts of civil resistance and organization. That will be done in the myriad of ways around the country, and again, this is not the end, but only the beginning."


Simeone said that the rally is neither pro-Democrat nor pro- Republican. In fact, she said that the rally is "against both major political parties," noting the Democrats and Republicans are "equally corrupt," and "equally in the pocket of corporations and Wall Street and the military-industry" complex.

As the general election is approaching in the coming year, such sentiment could spell trouble for both the Democrats and the Republicans. Some might argue the Democrats could take a harder hit as the "occupy" movement took place mainly in "Blue States."

Simeone, however, said while many who participate in the rallies identify themselves as left-leaning, "there are many people in this movement who are from the right, or who identify as libertarian on economics or who have sons and daughters in Afghanistan or Iraq and have always been Republican or conservatives all their lives."

"They agree that the wars have to end, and they agree we have to get money out of politics," said Simeone, and she believes the movement has the potential to bring in a lot of people from all over the political spectrum.

According to the organizers, about 5,000 people have signed online pledges to come to the rally, but Simeone would not make a prediction on how many would show up. In keeping with the "occupy" rallies' tradition, the D.C. rally is also going to be fun, with musicians, poets and art activities, as well as classes and shops.

"This is also about building community with each other," said Simeone.

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