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As the Occupy Wall Street protest enters its twentieth day, New York City’s most powerful unions are set to march today from City Hall to the movement’s encampment in the Financial District. The demonstration will be bolstered by the walkout of potentially thousands of students at major public universities in New York City where tuition rates are on the rise. Meanwhile, similar "occupation" movements are springing up in cities around the country. On Tuesday, the Greater Boston Labor Council, representing 154 unions with 90,000 workers, supported the Occupy Boston encampment for shining "a spotlight on the imbalance of power in our nation and the role that Wall Street has played in devastating our economy." We host a discussion about whether the Occupy Wall Street movement is sparking a diverse, grassroots movement for economic change. We’re joined by Kai Wright, contributor to The Nation magazine and editorial director of ColorLines.com, where he wrote "Here’s to Occupying Wall Street! (If Only That Were Actually Happening)." We also speak with Arun Gupta, an editor with of The Indypendent, and of “The Occupied Wall Street Journal,” a newspaper affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement, where he published an article titled, "The Revolution Begins at Home." AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman with Nermeen Shaikh. NERMEEN SHAIKH: Here in New York, the city’s powerful unions are set to join the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations now entering its 20th day. Their march to City Hall be bolstered by the walkout of hundreds, potentially thousands, of students at major public universities in New York City where tuition rates are on the rise. The movement received a boost Monday when the SEIU 1199 healthcare workers union issued a statement of support for the protest, promising to send nurses to train those providing first aid at the encampment. The healthcare workers union joins the Transport Workers Union, which runs the city’s subway and bus system, in supporting the growing movement. On Monday, attorneys for the TWU attempted to obtain a temporary federal restraining order to prevent the police from commandeering buses operated by its members to ferry protesters who are arrested. Over the weekend, the NYPD used at least three city buses to transport some of the more than 700 protesters arrested attempting to cross the Brooklyn bridge. Tony Murphy is an activist with the Bail Out the People movement. TONY MURPHY: The NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg has to keep their hands off Occupy Wall Street, stop harassing them, stop with the mass arrests.
Liberty Plaza, which is the center of Occupy Wall Street, is a stone’s throw away from Goldman Sachs. If they want to to arrest someone, they should go down to Wall Street, down to the stock exchange and arrest the people who are busy clearing out elderly people from their homes, hurting people’s pensions—-these are the people who are hurting people and should be arrested. AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, similar occupation movements are springing up in other cities around the country. From Austin, TX, where several thousand are expected to attend Occupy City Hall Thursday, to Knoxville, Tennessee, Chicago, Denver, some two dozen other locations in Florida and California and elsewhere. Protests have also been in organized internationally, in Canada, Australia and Japan, Mexico, and other countries. In Boston, as many as 1000 demonstrators gathered in Dewey Square last Friday where they had been permitted to set up tents, many planning to stay indefinitely. Tuesday evening, The Greater Boston Labor Council, which speaks for 154 unions representing 90,000 workers, praised Occupy Boston for shining a spotlight on the imbalance of power in our nation and the role that Wall Street has played in devastating our economy. To talk more about this movement, we’re joined by Kai Wright. He is editorial director of ColorLines.com. His latest piece there is titled, "Here’s To Occupying Wall Street! (If Only That Were Actually Happening)." He also writes for The Nation magazine. We are also joined by Arun Gupta, who helped put together The Occupied Wall Street Journal, the newspaper affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement. He wrote an article there called, "The Revolution Begins at Home." Arun, is this a revolution that we are seeing? ARUN GUPTA: It is not a revolution, but it is a remarkable nucleus of a revolt, because what has gone on is they have been able to seize this territory in the heart of global capitalism, right there near the New York Stock Exchange, and hold it now for going into its third week. What this has done is create a political space, a radical democratic popular space for organizing. That is why we see so many groups signing on to it. We have seen all these unions sign on to it, there is now a call going out for an antiwar march on October 15, various food justice and environmental movements are endorsing it. It is really remarkable how you have just this broad swath of progressive organizations that are joining in and supporting it, because the occupation has essentially become this giant megaphone for the rage and outrage against a failed system, against the failed economy, failed political leaders, failed mainstream media, and the failed police system.
AMY GOODMAN: Kai Wright, have you been spending time there? What are people’s demands? How do you assess what you are seeing now? KAI WRIGHT: Well I would agree, it is an exciting moment. I think the most exciting part about it is exactly this expansion that Arun is talking about. I think that what we’re seeing today with the labor unions joining in, and importantly with some of the existing or pre-existing movements that have put—-that have tried to put homeowners and the jobless and the communities that have been most impacted by this crisis —- they have been working to put those folks back into the center of the conversation of our national politics. I think what we are seeing this week with the Occupy Wall Street movement is those folks coming together. They have been reaching out in cities across the country. There are going to be some actions in Los Angeles this week where the California homeowners’ groups are partnering are partnering——are reaching out to the Occupy Wall Street folks. We are seeing that around the country. I think… AMY GOODMAN: And the homeowners are? KAI WRIGHT: And the homeowners are largely folks of color. I think what is an important part of this whole crisis for us to keep in mind is that this did not just happen. The crisis we are in and the giant wealth gap we’re looking at did not just occur. It was the result of very specific decisions by key players in the financial industry and their cohorts in both Washington and state government, to prey upon working people – and not for nothing specifically in working communities of color. That was both the kindling for the crisis we have and the thing that’s keeping it alive – and importantly the cause of the instability in the economy that is affecting everybody. I think our politics has to keep that front and center. I think our policy has to name the villains and the victims in order for us to come up with a solution that is really going to solve it. And so what is really exciting about this moment this week, is that some of the movements that have been trying to put those folks back into the center of the conversation are getting involved and are coming together with this Occupy Wall Street moment, and I think the march we are going to see today for instance, in New York City, is going to be an opportunity to really see the face of this crisis. NERMEEN SHAIKH: Speaking of politics, I want to turn to a clip of White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. For the first time yesterday, a reporter asked him if Obama is sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street protesters.
REPORTER: Has the Occupy Wall Street protest reached a level where President engaged awareness, sympathizing with the protesters, is he concerned about the protest at all? JAY CARNEY: I have not discussed it with him. I am sure he is aware of it, because he follows the news. I mean, I would simply say that, to the extent people are frustrated with the economic situation, we understand and that is why we’re so urgently trying to focus Congress on the need to take some action on the economy and job creation. As regards Wall Street, one of the things that this president is very proud of is the consumer protections that were put into place through legislation that Republicans are now eagerly try to try to dismantle. We think that is a bad idea. We think one way that we could demonstrate, and Congress could join us in demonstrating a commitment to the kind of protections that are provided within that legislation, is to take up the nomination and clear it for Richard Cordray to head that agency. These are common sense, consumer protections that would prevent the kind of abuse that credit card companies engaged in against credit card holders, that would protect against the … some of the actions that were taken that led to or contributed to our country to the financial crisis we saw in 2008. These are measures the president felt were very important. There is a clear effort within the Congress to prevent the full implementation of that legislation by holding up this nomination. We think that is cynical and a bad idea. AMY GOODMAN: That was Jay Carney, White House spokesman. Arun Gupta, your response? ARUN GUPTA: I think it’s amazing and the Obama administration now has to acknowledge it. The fact is, what they’re most proud of is coddling bankers and insuring that the banks continue to reap billions of dollars in profits and the bankers and executives continue to get their big bonuses. That is what they really fought for. To act like some sort of vague consumer protections that do not really amount to much instead of, like credit card statements and fees, is a acknowledging what the protesters are down there at Wall Street for, is just a phenomenal disconnect. But it shows how this movement is growing when the powers that be are forced to recognize it. I think the whole issue of demands such as what Kai Wright raises, is somewhat misinformed. The reason this movement is a success is precisely because it did not come in with any demands, because it was shapeless. There are real limits to that, and they have to figure out how to get around that, but if they came in with demands it would have probably failed,
because then the media would have attacked the demands as being either inadequate or too pie-in-the-sky, it would have limited the appeal of the protests because you would have had various tendencies that would have gotten attacked by other groups. So this shapelessness is what has really allowed it to grow and become this vessel for all this rage and outrage against the failed system. KAI WRIGHT: I want to clear up something. I do, I agree that having a broad-based outrage is in fact the power of this movement. That is a great thing. I do also believe that race-blind politics creates race-blind solutions. So within the shapelessness – I am not saying that there needs to be a series of demands. It’s a matter of building movements that put the people who are most affected by this problem in the forefront so that the solution that comes out reflects their problems. I say that because I think one of the key problems we have had in dealing with this crisis is that we have consistently —-and I do not think accidentally—-the banking lobby and friends in Washington have consistently pushed those folks out of the spotlight in order to focus on the well-being of investors, the well-being of the president, the well-being of whoever, other than those are losing their homes and losing their jobs. I think it is important our politics put those folks front and center. That is happening. That is exactly what is happening organically through this movement. I think that is fabulous. AMY GOODMAN: Let’s play some of the media coverage of Occupy Wall Street. First, to Ann Coulter commenting on the protest on Fox News. ANNOUNCER: Corporate person-hood. Demolition of capitalism. If we learn to share, we can all live in prosperity. What do you make of all this, Ann? ANN COULTER: All of those quotes could have been said in 1789 France before the French Revolution or the Russian revolution. Or with only slight modification, when the Nazis were coming to power. Cuba under Fidel Castro. Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. This is always the beginning of totalitarianism. AMY GOODMAN: Totalitarianism. That’s Ann Coulter, on Fox News. ARUN GUPTA: Well she has made her career as a blonde bomb thrower. So this is nothing new, to try to compare it to, everything to, the communists, to Nazis. The fact of the matter is, there is a lot of inchoate political organizing. But again, what Kai is, the way he is representing it is a misunderstanding is a misunderstanding of what is going on there. Because what they have done
is they have created a political space and they are allowing all these different groups, and anyone who wants to come down there can come down there and organize, and if community groups are not coming down and organizing, the onus is upon them. The unions are out there now, the antiwar movement is there. I have seen some community groups out there now. I do also want to say that I was kind of dismayed by Kai in his piece where at one point he talks about—-that this has become, “a roving citywide clash with police." This is not anything approaching reality. In fact, all we have seen is that on one weekend, September 24th, the police attacked one protest. The following week, Saturday, on October 1, the police appear, and many protesters allege that the police and entrapped them on the bridge when they arrested over 700. I think these misrepresentations of what is going on do a disservice to what is really happening down there. AMY GOODMAN: Kai Wright? KAI WRIGHT: Like I said, there are existing movements. I do not know that I believe the onus is on them to join this movement. I think what is great and what is exciting is that the movements are coming together. I think that is the conversation we all need to be focused on, how to bring the folks who have been out of the political conversation—-whether it be—-a whole range of folks, whether it be the folks who originally showed up at Occupy Wall Street or whether it be the homeowners and jobless folks who have been in the streets for years, but being ignored by mainstream media—-how we bring them altogether so we have a sustainable movement? I think that is fabulous. I think it is easy for media coverage of the events to become misrepresented when you do not have the people who are most affected by it involved in it. I think that is the point I wanted to make in my piece. NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to play a comment from one of the Occupy Wall Street activists who argued this weekend’s mass arrest, 700 people arrested, was a way to intimidate those planning today’s labor mobilization. This is Yotam Marom. YOTAM MAROM: I think that was a clear message: You know what? We are going to arrest 700 people and that is going to scare unions, working families, people who actually struggling with real issues that cannot miss work, who have kids, and they are not going to come out on Wednesday. If they do come out on Wednesday, that is a big deal. I think that was part of a really clear move to try to keep this limited to young people who are militant and whatever, and keep it from being truly representative of people with real
needs in New York City. I really hope that the unions and community groups come out anyway, because not only would that just disprove what the police are trying to do, but it also…it is the protection that we and they need. They cannot be arrested. That is why they’re trying to scare them away, because they really do give us the legs that we need to really make this a serious movement. AMY GOODMAN: Your response? KAI WRIGHT: Again, I think the end there is a really important point. This is the legs to make this a sustainable movement. I think that it is true that not everybody can get arrested. Movements need to be built around the participation of everybody, and particularly those that are most affected. I am excited by the fact what we are seeing this week is an expansion of people involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement. I’m excited that it sounds like people involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement around the country are eager to plug in with existing movements of people of color and homeowners who have been in the streets and are looking for more fuel. AMY GOODMAN: Democracy Now! recently spoke to Frances Fox Piven, who was down at Wall Street. Bill O’Reilly of Fox later replayed our clip. He called Piven a communist sympathizer who O’Reilly said was outed by Glenn Beck. Let’s turn to that clip. BILL O’REILLY: As we reported last week a few hundred protesters are roaming around New York City, demonstrating against capitalism and the establishment in general. There is some money behind these people, who are organizations like anonymous, the National Lawyers Guild and Ad Busters are supporting. Far left, of course, loves this. FRANCES FOX PIVEN: I think we desperately need a popular uprising in the United States. None of us know – I study movements – we don’t know the exact formula, when those movements erupt, but they could be. If that is true, then these people who are here are really wonderful, and I would do anything to help them. BILL O’REILLY: Recognize that lady? That is Frances Fox Piven, who Glenn Beck outed as a communist sympathizer. She teaches at a university here in New York. AMY GOODMAN: That was Bill O’Reilly, talking about Frances Fox Piven. I want to talk not just about what Frances Fox Piven said, but also how O’Reilly depicted her: communist sympathizer. Arun?
ARUN GUPTA: well, of course that is typical of Fox News. But I think Piven is absolutely right. We do need an uprising across this country. When the tea party calls for an uprising, Bill O’Reilly calls them patriots and honoring the founding fathers. I do want to get back to what Kai was talking about, that the community groups — the onus is upon them because this is an enormous opportunity. I’ve been going down virtually every single day. On Monday, there were more than 25 television crews from around the world. There were nearly as many media there as the trial of Michael Jackson’s daughter. Any group would recognize that this is an amazing opportunity. If you go into this political space, this social space that they have liberated, you can do amazing organizing, you could get your message out to millions of people around the world. There is no risk of arrest. That is just simply a misrepresentation. Those arrests are happening on these un-permitted marches, which are very important for creating social space, but are entirely different. AMY GOODMAN: We have to go, Arun, we are going to be talking about what is happening in Washington DC, but I just wanted to quickly ask you, Arun, about The Occupied Wall Street Journal. ARUN GUPTA: This is something The Indypendent newspaper, which I work with, helped put together. We felt that there needed to be voices and stories coming out of the occupation. It is not the official publication, it‘s just a group of journalists who are sympathetic to what is going on down there. There has been an initial print run of 50,000 and another 20,000. AMY GOODMAN: We were down there the other day, they’re just bringing them in by the shiploads. ARUN GUPTA I think it is any amazing thing. It has been mentioned in media all around the world. One of the funny things that I think shows the resiliency of the system and that we are up against, this is a free publication produced in a noncommodified space. It is now being sold on Ebay as a souvenir. AMY GOODMAN: And have you tasted the Occu-pie? That’s the pizza pie that’s coming in from pizza parlors all over, being ordered for the people in Occupy Wall Street from all over the world, as happened in Madison, Wisconsin—-people from Egypt putting in orders so that the people would be fed at Occupy Wall Street. Kai Wright, thanks very much for being with us, and Arun Gupta, thanks so much for being with us. The Occupied Wall Street
Journal, Arun was involved in putting out, and Kai Wright, writes for ColorLines and for The Nation magazine. The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work todemocracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.
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