THE WIND IS CHANGING
Thousands of Wall Street opponents take to the streets in New York and many other US cities. Their movement grows and is now supported by unions.
By Dorothea Hahn, Washington
[This article published in: www.taz.de 10/7/2011 is translated from the German on the Internet.]
It is Day 19 of the protest movement, the moment when a national movement arose out of a few dozen who occupied Zuccotti Park in Manhattan (renamed "Liberty Plaza") on September 17. Thousands demonstrated on Wednesday afternoon in New York. Some of the largest unions in the country are participating, the auto-workers union, several transportation unions and the umbrella organization AFL-CIO. Many demonstrators come in suits and ties directly from their offices. In the financial district, they proclaim: "Buy shares, not populations." "Tax the Rich" could be read on many signs. Bus drivers, teachers and nurses declared: "We have the same goals as the occupiers." At the same time solidarity actions are taking place at 147 other places in the US from the high North down to Florida. More than 30 new places are added overnight. Thousands of unionists gather before Congress in the capitol Washington. In choruses, they remind their legislators who elected them: "We are the people." In New York, the transportation unionist Larry Hanley announced: "the wind is changing." In Washington, Roger Hickey of the Campaign for America's Future also senses a turn: "The movement will be long-term," he says. "We will bring it to all the corners of the country."
The dawning of a new era in the US left is bringing together organizations that were separated for years. Many unionists are preparing a nationwide tour while occupiers in the next days will take more positions - including Freedom Plaza in Washington where a protest for several days against the Afghanistan war will begin on the 10th anniversary of the first bombardment. They will discuss their strategies for three days in Washington. They want to rescue the "American dream" and their congress is called "Take Back the American Dream." Some of them dream of becoming a left counterpart to the radical right Tea Party up to the elections. They want to be the populist movement that takes President Obama back to his original positions.
These reflections in the union movement are far from the worries of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. Elections don't make any difference for the occupiers. To them, the 99 percent of the US population are central who are increasingly impoverished and politically subject to the dictates of one percent of the population. "I will stay until we become 100 percent," was written on one occupier's sign in New York. There is a larger crowd every day in south Manhattan. Several thousand people are there now. At night the hardboiled among the occupiers sleep outside in the fall coolness and rain because the police do not allow any tents.
Many well-known leftist personalities paid visits. Globalization-critic Naomi Klein was one public figure. She described the long way from selective actions at summits as in Seattle in the 1990s to the occupation in New York now in its third week. "In the 1990s people were still plastered by the greed for stocks," Klein said in New York. "Today this is different. The zenith is crossed. " She regards the time as right for radical changes. Different republican presidential candidates attack. The candidate and former pizza businessman Herman Cain says: "Whoever doesn't have a job should blame himself, not Wall Street or the government." Another republic candidate Mitt Romney calls "Occupy Wall Street" a dangerous class struggle. Romney runs his election campaign with more than $2.2 million support from the financial sector. However whether the base of his own party will follow him is uncertain. Polls including the poll of the conservative Rasmussen Institute show that the bank bailout is controversial. Nearly 80 percent of the rightwing base, according to Rasmussen, agrees with the sentence that sounds like a battle-cry of the "Occupy Wall Street" people: "The big banks get a bailout program. The middle class is forgotten."
The dawn of a new era has brought together groups that were long separated. "This movement is long-term. We will bring it to the whole country." (Roger Hickey)