Just the very name — Occupy Wall Street! — has struck a chord with millions of people across the United States who are suffering from the often capricious devastation wreaked by the capitalist crisis, which has meant a job destroyed here, a family evicted there, until whole communities are left in tatters.
So when the call went out from Occupy Wall Street for a Day of Rage against the super-rich 1 percent on Oct. 15, it reverberated around the Internet, flew from phone to phone via texting, and drew hundreds of thousands of people out of their comfort zones and into the streets.
Photos: G. Dunkel, Kris Hamel, Dustin Goetz, Minnie Bruce Pratt Joseph Piette, Bryan G. Pfeifer, Kelly Valdez
Below is a much condensed summary of the many reports that have come into Workers World from all over the country describing what happened that day, which also marked the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan War. Separate articles appear in this issue on events in New York and Boston.
RALEIGH, N.C.: Protesters hold Capitol square, defy police
People from all across North Carolina converged on the Capitol grounds of Raleigh to take a stand against wealth inequality and the “dictatorship of the banks,” as one demonstrator’s sign read. For four hours, people took turns taking the microphone and speaking out about the issues affecting their lives, from foreclosures to inadequate mental health care. More than 1,000 people marched down an adjacent street, which holds the skyscraper offices of Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other banks, chanting “Make the banks pay!” and “How do you solve a deficit? End the wars & tax the rich!”
At 3 p.m., demonstrators defied the police by occupying the square after the protest permit expired. They held the square for four more hours in the face of intense police intimidation. The square was finally cleared when dozens of city cops staged a mass arrest of the occupiers. Those not arrested rallied at the jailhouse and then returned to the square to continue the occupation on the sidewalk just beyond the police barricades. [Andy Koch]
WISCONSIN: Milwaukee, Green Bay, Appleton march on Chase banks
At least 2,000 marched on Chase and M&I banks in Milwaukee. Some 200 protested Chase in Appleton, and there were also marches against Chase in New Berlin and Green Bay. Chase is the biggest bank in the U.S. and one of the most profitable. It is responsible for foreclosing on millions of homeowners and refuses to enact a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions.
In Green Bay, mostly youth/students first demonstrated at City Hall. One of the leaders was from the Oneida Nation. There were lots of media. “Bail out the people, not the banks” was a popular chant, followed by a people’s speak-out where folks testified to the crimes the banks have done to them. A few of the youth wanted to talk about socialism. Green Bay is the third-largest metro area in Wisconsin with about 100,000, mostly white but with some Black people and a good number of Hmong and Latinos/as, mostly due to meat packing and agricultural industries. The political slogans went way beyond “Recall Walker.”
At many of the Occupy events in Wisconsin people demanded a federal jobs program based on the Works Progress Administration of the 1930s and a federal moratorium on foreclosures. Occupy LaCrosse, Eau Claire, Green Bay, Madison, Appleton and Milwaukee are ongoing and plans are underway for future events. [Bryan G. Pfeifer]
DETROIT 1,000 march, 200 camp out
More than 1,000 people gathered in downtown Detroit on Oct. 14, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement sweeping the country and the world. They carried signs and banners attacking the banks and corporations, denouncing racism and demanding “Bring the troops home now.” Chanting and singing, the crowd marched to Grand Circus Park on Woodward Avenue, Detroit’s “Main Street.” A general assembly lasted several hours, with community and labor speakers as well as rank-and-file participation. Tents started springing up even before the march arrived. By the end of the weekend about 200 people were camping out.
Labor support was evident everywhere. There were United Auto Worker jackets, a contingent of Service Employees (SEIU) members, and a tent with Metro-Detroit AFL-CIO’s secretary-treasurer camping out. Community groups such as Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Moratorium NOW! Coalition Against Foreclosures, Detroit Green Party and the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice expressed solidarity in speeches and logistical support. Central United Methodist Church and a local business opened their doors to provide bathrooms and meeting space.
During the daytime the park filled with supporters and well-wishers, many bringing food, water and clothing for the hardy, mainly youthful campers. The second General Assembly voted to march on the state of Michigan building Oct. 20 to protest cuts to tens of thousands of welfare recipients and to march on Bank of America to protest foreclosures and evictions. [David Sole]
PITTSBURGH ‘Do not give up the fight!’
Around 3,000 people gathered at Freedom Corner in the Hill District and marched downtown to Mellon Green, which faces the towering Mellon building. Many intend to stay as long as they can. One speaker faced the building and spoke into a loudspeaker: “We are not below you, as we are today. We are above you. We are the 99 percent!” He told the cheering crowd, “Thank you for occupying Pittsburgh! Do not give up the fight!” [Kelly Valdez]
ATLANTA March from ‘Troy Davis Park’ to homeless shelter
Hundreds of people, many of them Emory University students, took over the streets of downtown Atlanta and marched past big hotels and office buildings from the newly renamed “Troy Davis” Park to a homeless shelter on Peachtree Street that the city, the university and the Chamber of Commerce have been trying to shut down. They chanted, “Emory hates the poor, kicks the homeless out the door” and “Housing is a human right, close our shelter not without a fight.” They got much support from local residents. Police threats to shut down their encampment at the park have not materialized, and it has become a space for political discussion and cultural expression. [Dianne Mathiowetz]
WEST VA., KENTUCKY No to Chase & mountain-top removal
People in Huntington, W.Va., have camped outside a Chase branch since Oct. 7. Chase Bank’s financial ties to mountain-top removal and its expansive pharmaceutical holdings are being confronted as detrimental to the region. Sponsoring organizations of the occupation include Red and Black Ties, Paddle Creek Collective and Industrial Workers of the World. Members of the state AFL-CIO, SEIU Local 1199, Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union Local 21 and United Electrical Workers Local 170 have attended the occupation. There are also occupations in Charleston, Wheeling, Morgantown and Beckley, W.Va.; as well as in nearby Ashland, Ky. [Jeremy B.]
PHILADELPHIA Tent City grows from 20 to 300
Occupy Philly, opened Oct. 6 outside City Hall at the crossroads of Center City, is fast becoming a magnet for people struggling to survive this system.
Some are students from area high schools and colleges burdened by student loan debt, who know jobs won’t be there for them when they graduate. Some are elders worrying about the rapidly dwindling funds in their pension plans or how they can survive on meager Social Security checks. Some are workers from nearby offices, part-time cashiers in restaurants and coffee shops, teachers, public employees, drivers, health care workers. Many are homeless men and women whose nightly makeshift shelters dot nearby parks and plazas, including Dilworth Plaza where City Hall sits.
Occupy Philly started with 20 tents. Now there are more than 300. Signs call for jobs not war, demand freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal and support the rights of undocumented workers. On Oct. 17, there will be a peoples’ speakout and march to the U.S. Department of Education that manages federal student loans, with a stop at the Philadelphia Stock Exchange.
Janitors from hotels and high-rise buildings, including the offices of the Stock Exchange, visited Occupy Philly to announce plans for a march on Oct. 17 and a potential strike this week. They are members of SEIU Local 32BJ, which has provided material support for the encampment. Many are immigrants as well.
In an historic first, Workers World Party’s Philadelphia branch held its first open-air political discussion group under a canopy at Occupy Philly. It addressed what capitalism is all about, how it has impacted people’s lives and why socialism offers a progressive alternative. [Betsey Piette]
OCCUPY BUFFALO, ROCHESTER & SYRACUSE, N.Y.
A General Assembly capped a week of occupation in front of Buffalo City Hall. Several hundred people participated in spite of high winds and heavy rain. [Ellie Dorritie]
Supporters of Occupy Rochester demonstrate every day at Bank of America. Across the street there are protests every day from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Liberty Pole. On Oct. 10, about 80 people participated, with significant labor support. On Oct. 12, about 100 people marched from the Liberty Pole to join a Civil Service Employees (CSEA) rally at the County Office Building to support county workers’ efforts to get a fair contract. On Oct. 15, nearly 100 people marched in solidarity with OWS and to denounce U.S. wars. They went to the Federal Building and then a Chase bank, where a number of demonstrators entered the lobby and filled it with chants before leaving. [Lydia Bayoneta]
In a cold, drizzling rain some 250 protesters marched from Occupy Syracuse through the downtown area on Oct. 15. That was more than three times the size of the demonstration the previous week. Members of the Communication Workers at Verizon took part with their banner; other marchers included members of the CSEA and the Teamsters, Veterans for Peace, students and teachers from Syracuse University, and activists from Syracuse Peace Council, Workers World Party, the Green Party and the Party for Socialism and Liberation. [Minnie Bruce Pratt]
JERSEY CITY, N.J ‘Occupy Journal Square’
The 24/7 Occupy Journal Square solidarity encampment in Jersey City is strong and unified going into its 12th day. It first came together on Oct. 6 through a Facebook page that called for a demonstration in front of a Goldman-Sachs office building on the Jersey City waterfront. When 40 protesters were met by more than 250 police from five different police forces, some of whom came in a patrol boat and helicopters, they became determined to turn the protest into a permanent presence.
A General Assembly a few days later decided that Journal Square — a transportation crossroads located in the heart of a diverse working class community — would be the site of the encampment. Supporters from the Jersey City Peace Movement and Veterans For Peace/Chapter 021 visited the office of Mayor Jerramiah Healy and later spoke before the City Council in a successful effort to have the police presence removed from the OJS site. At an Oct. 16 General Assembly, it was decided that the focus of OJS would move from logistical planning to targeted community outreach. [Michael Kramer]
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