A few days ago, I walked through Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan to check out the occupation of Wall Street and found a ragtag mix of earnest protesters, young people, and homeless-looking folk. Tonight, I returned with thousands of marchers who trekked down Broadway to protest the our country's unjust and inadequate responses to the economic crisis. I marched with union members, teachers, musicians, white collar workers, peace activists, and environmentalists. This is a real movement for economic justice and the Democrats ignore it at their peril
The breadth, spirit and order of tonight's march were impressive. These were the left end of the people who elected President Obama--from radicals to liberal Democrats--and they are the foundation for any consequential movement for progressive change in the United States. They are also people who understandably feel ignored by the current administration.
Old faces from other protests, union members from Local 100 of the Transport Workers' Union and the Communications Workers, and smiling onlookers brought a great sense of energy, steadiness and purpose to the procession. The best piece of sloganeering I saw was a sticker that many people wore on their lapel, simply reading "99%." It was a great reminder that the marchers were part of the majority in the country and that the economy ought to serve us and not the other way around.
Up to now, reporting on the Wall Street occupation has depicted the protesters as everything form Sixties holdovers to nut cases. Gina Bellafante's piece in the Times was an example of this kind of journalism, managing to be snide and shallow at the same time. She focused on the weirdest people in the park, dismissed the rest of them as unrealistic, and then left. Tonight's demonstration is an answer to her. So was the occupants' committees organized to deal with cleanup, security, and arts and cultures. Some of those folks may be anarchists, but that doesn't mean that they don't know how to govern themselves.
After months and years of being kicked around by the Great Recession, tonight thousands of New Yorkers kicked back. It felt great.
If we find a just way out of this crisis, it will be because people in power--starting with the White House--hear the voices in Zuccotti Park.