I was among the 20,0000 people who participated in the May 12 action.— here’s what that many people marching on Wall Street looks like (video care of the super-heroic Austen Guest of the Alliance for a Greater New York). I tried to cobble together some stories for you guys, I’m exhausted so I apologize for my sloppy writing here.
If you are unfamiliar with the May 12 events, definitely read the live coverage in the form of tweets from the rally (you don’t need twitter to read it). Here’s a compilation of early press coverage (yes, there was media but of course it received nowhere near as much attention as 5 tea party people get for standing on a street corner).
Regardless, the most inspirational thing about the May 12th actions is how many children and teens I saw out there. I have never seen so many kids at a protest before and with so much diversity.
NY’s major community groups like the new and impressive NY Communities for Change and innovative immigrant rights group Make the Road NY turned out en mass as you’d expect (they’ve got a lot of members). But so did countless smaller groups I’d never seen before, ones named after the city’s hundreds of neighborhoods like Cypress Hill and the Lower East Side. These neighborhood-based nonprofits provide direct services to their members– services they’ll be hard pressed to provide if the city cuts funding.
The rally’s logistical plan was to have a series of feeder marches based on core issues like Jobs, Housing, Education etc begin at various locations in the financial district and then converge. Then groups were supposed to break up and form teach ins in front of significant financial industry buildings.
I met a group of children marching with the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice and some high school students let me hang out with them at teach-ins about bank bailouts and cuts to public universities. Classic sign I spotted read “Class War Impacts Class Size”– sorry I didn’t get a good pic of it. [cont’d.]
ALIGN members put together a teach-in on Walmart (which is trying to invade NYC again). Since ALIGN was a coalition member I asked Austen to lay out the strategy–
“Yesterday was a great example of the power of broad-based community-labor coalitions to build power in a way that no single organization could on its own. With wealth inequality at unprecedented levels, we need broad coalitions and fresh tactics to build the kind of power it will take to build an economy that will work for all New Yorkers. A 21st century economy will take a 21st century movement to change. Yesterday, we started to demonstrate that we’re up to the challenge.”
And on the rally’s overall turnout he said “The damage wrought on our communities by Wall Street has been incredibly widespread, so it’s not surprising that 20,000 New Yorkers from all walks of life came out yesterday to stop them from continuing to loot the public pocket book while asking rest of us to sacrifice. When our city gives away $1.5 billion in tax giveaways to banks and millionaires instead of using that money to create jobs or serve our communities, we all suffer. Yesterday New Yorkers took the street to demonstrate our resolve to stand up together and make our voices heard until our public dollars are put toward the public good. And we won’t be backing down anytime soon.”
Jean Sassine, of the advocacy group New York Communities for Change said “Our communities are hurting due to foreclosures, unemployment, and cuts to services. It’s time to demand that big banks change their ways or simply stop doing business with them.”
Families for Racial and Economic Justice turned out lots of teens and tweets (check out their photostream). I’d never heard of the Who Cares, I Do Coalition before but they had a lot of kids at the rally (here’s a photo) so I couldn’t leave them out.
While the big rally was on May 12th, creative interventions had been staged all week. The On May 12 Coalition crashed bank execs in a meeting where they discussed how to get away with what sounds like money laundering.
Community activists crashed John Boehner’s fundraiser at the Hilton to sing “Smooth Criminal”. I believe they are in the lobby singing it in this video. Two students from Roosevelt High School who participated explained why they participated I love these kids!)
Some folks came all the way from Oakland to deliver a letter to Goldman Sachs (and did).
Tuesday 200 people went from one financial institution to another and chanted and sang with a demand sheet asking people to pay their fair share. Buildings were shut down. Headquarters were visited and business as usual was most certainly disrupted.
I wasn’t able to participate in anything myself until Wednesday night’s Guerilla drive-in-theater where I learned that chanting + popcorn + marching band = awesome action but really sore throat. Wha?
One of the groups behind the Guerilla Drive-in, The Other 98 explained
Last night the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City went through a process of identity correction.1,000 people gathered to launch Koch Brothers Exposed — a new project of Brave New Foundation and The Other 98% — by projecting a short film about the billionaire Koch Brothers onto the front of the Kochs’ own building. Simultaneously, a small team of pranksters placed the giant sticker pictured above on the front of the theater. The boisterous crowd featured a live marching band, free popcorn, and – most importantly – the truth about the Koch Brothers.
I’m still getting more quotes from participants and community groups so I’ll keep updating this tonight.
NOTE: I’m writing this as a private individual not as a rep of any group etc etc.