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"Occupy Wall Street" grows as New York union workers take to streets

English.news.cn   2011-10-06 10:05:22 FeedbackPrintRSS

 

People hold placards with slogans to attend protests against Wall Street greed in New York, Oct. 5, 2011. The "Occupy Wall Street" movement targeting corporate greed, which has rocked multiple U.S. metropolises over the past weeks, seemed to have gained new momentum on Wednesday, as thousands of New York City union workers took to the streets in downtown Manhattan and marched toward the city's financial heartland. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)

by Xinhua writers Hu Lujie, Rong Jiaojiao and Wang Xiangjiang

NEW YORK, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- The "Occupy Wall Street" movement targeting corporate greed, which has rocked multiple U.S. metropolises over the past weeks, seemed to have gained new momentum on Wednesday, as thousands of New York City union workers took to the streets in downtown Manhattan and marched toward the city's financial heartland.

Under heavy police surveillance, the union workers, including teachers, nurses and writers, set out from Zuccotti Park, a privately-owned property near Wall Street, where "Occupy Wall Street" protesters have camped out in sleeping bags for about three weeks, and marched toward Foley Square north of the famous financial district, shouting slogans like "Wall Street should buy stocks not politicians," "Time is up for Wall Street bankers."

They represent more than 15 of the country's biggest labor unions as well as a number of notable community organizations, including United Auto Workers, Chinatown Tenants Union, Transit Workers' Union, Working Families Party and United NY.

James Weatherby, a protester from the American federation of state, county and municipal employees, told Xinhua reporters: "As the middle class we are falling apart ... It is getting worse and worse ... We have tried but there are just no jobs. We need to change the tax structure, (and) the government is supposed to be here to protect us."

"The middle class is taking the change. We are screwed by the wealthy. There are two parts of the society: the have and the have- not. The politicians did not hear us, but the Wall Street," said Weatherby.

John Samuelsen, president of Transport Workers' Union, or TWU local 100, told local media that the recent protests on Wall Street are, to a large extent, singing the same song and fighting the same battle as his union has done for the last 18 months.

"Basically that working families in New York State are definitely getting shafted while the wealthiest folks in New York State get tax break," he said. "There is a sense of desperation for working people and working families in this country that the folks run the government just don't get."

Another union, known as the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), also voiced support for the "Occupy Wall Street" movement as it enters its third week of protests.

"The ATU applauds the Occupy Wall Street activists for their courage and strength to expose the greed and corruption on Wall Street as the rest of America struggles to survive," said Larry Hanley, ATU International President, in a statement posted at the organization's website. "These young people are speaking for the vast majority of Americans who are frustrated by the bankers and brokers who have profited on the backs of hard working people."

From Foley Square, the protesters were joined by some university students, and then marched back to Zuccotti Park via Wall Street.

"This is an incredible movement because the system is broken. We are here to fix the system. We can make the real change and make our voice heard via grassroots movement," said 21-year-old Bre Lembitz, a fourth-year college student, hailing Wednesday's parade as a success in terms of the public attention given to " Occupy Wall Street."

The parade, to the accompaniment of dramatic drum beating, turned out to be quite peaceful, in a sharp contrast to what had happened on Sept. 24 and Oct. 1, when hundreds of protesters were arrested for allegedly attempting to enter cordoned-off areas or block traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge.

A New York police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Xinhua at Zuccotti Park that the police have been taking morning, afternoon and night shifts to keep watch on the protesters in case of any emergency. He also claimed that the police would try their best to avoid any further clashes.

The "Occupy Wall Street" protests emerged on Sept. 17, with only a few dozen demonstrators -- mostly young people -- trying to erect tents before the New York Stock Exchange. With access denied by the police, they turned to Zuccotti Park as their camping ground. The number of participants has since grown to hundreds, with such facilities as food stand, mini-library and makeshift hospital set up on site. They even started to publish their own newspaper, ironically titled "The Occupied Wall Street Journal."

The protesters speak loudly against corporate greed, social inequality, global climate change and other problems. But except for venting their anger and desperation, they have so far failed to render any clear political demand or reform scheme.

Nevertheless, they have found vehement support from a host of social celebrities. Peter Paul, a key member of the Peter Paul/ Mary band which enjoyed high popularity in the 1960s, on Tuesday led his family to Zuccotti Park and staged a chorus based on the famous song "Blowin' in the Wind."

Still, stock traders at the New York Stock Exchange have largely ignored the protests, showing little belief that they could impact the market or the country's financial system in any way.

Professor Patrick Bolton of Columbia Business School echoed such views, dismissing speculation that the movement might further spread.

"Protesters seem to be inspired by the examples of Egypt and the 15-M movement in Spain," said Bolton. "The Spanish example is maybe more relevant ... if you look at what happened, the movement just petered out, and now the focus is on the general elections."

"I expect that the same will happen with the Wall Street protests," he said. "The reason is that the main concern in the U. S. is long-term unemployment and sluggish economy, and the Wall Street protests are not about these fundamental issues."

"The protests will just fade away," Bolton told Xinhua. "In the end what will grab people's attention is credible solutions to the unemployment problem."

But at least for now, movement activists -- either in New York or in other parts of the country, are sounding no retreat.

On Wednesday in Chicago, Illinois, more than 100 "Occupy Chicago" demonstrators chose to spend their 13th day of protests camping outside the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, despite police efforts to relocate the group.

Meanwhile, supporters of "Occupy Wall Street" in Los Angles, California also said they would stage a large-scale demonstration on Thursday. (Annie Bao, Zhang Ying'ao, Yu Liang and Huo Siying also contributed to the story.)

Related:

Hundreds march in San Francisco to support "Occupy Wall Street"

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of people rallied and marched in San Francisco Wednesday to show their support for "Occupy Wall Street" protesters in New York City.

The protestors started the march from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and then continued along several streets in the city's downtown area. Full story

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. Full story

"Occupy Chicago" protestors determine to stay despite arrest threat

CHICAGO, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- More than 100 demonstrators protesting corporate greed chose to spend an 13th day camped outside the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago on Wednesday, despite Chicago police have asked them to move their belongings off the street outside the bank. Full story

Editor: Chen Zhi
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