Mobilization is under way for a massive national march and rally Oct. 2 in Washington, where tens of thousands will demand jobs, immigration reform and full funding for public education and health care.
The demonstration is being organized by a wide coalition of civil and immigrant rights organizations, labor and faith-based groups and community leaders. Leading groups include the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, the Service Employees International Union, the American Federation of Teachers, the AFL-CIO and the United States Student Association. Nearly 200 groups have endorsed the event.
The march is in part a response to the tea party movement’s extreme racism, expressed by its radical members recently – especially its blatant attacks against the Obama administration.
NAACP President Ben Jealous is calling the march “One Nation” with the tag line “Working Together.” It will be a mass gathering of civil and human rights organizations, but also grassroots citizens from every walk of life, religion and race, he said.
“If any of us are going to get our agendas through, if we’re going to get the rights for workers down South to organize by passing the Employee Free Choice Act, if we’re going to get jobs created, if we’re going to get real resources for schools and teachers’ jobs around the country, if we’re going to get comprehensive immigration reform through, then we’ve got to all work together, all for one and one for all,” he told the Charlotte Post.
Organizers note that since President Obama’s 2008 election a series of victories have taken effect for working families, including the stimulus package and the Lily Ledbetter Act for fair pay for women. They point out that it was a broad coalition of groups that rallied together to support passage of the health care bill.
They say it shows that even during hard economic times, civil rights groups, student activists and union members can rally together and make up the winning formula to pressure Congress to pass major reforms that benefit working people.
But it has also became increasingly clear that racist attacks have escalated against the sweeping changes.
And joblessness continues with no letup, hurting all Americans and hitting communities of color especially hard. The jobless rate for African Americans is 15.4 percent and 12.4 percent for Latinos, compared with 8.6 percent for whites, they note.
“This is why we are calling for a great march on Washington,” Jealous told the recent NAACP national convention. “The NAACP, along with allies and partners, will show America that the solid majority of this nation is ready and willing to fight back and ensure that all of the change that we voted for becomes a reality for all of our children. That ‘America the Beautiful’ belongs to us. And that justice and freedom keeps moving forward.”
Organizers say the Oct. 2 demonstration will focus on pressing for more government spending on job creation. They hope it will be a show of force to remind lawmakers and the White House that people demand economic recovery and real change.
“People are very excited,” said Jealous. “The march is part of a broader civic engagement strategy to make sure we hold the people that they’ve elected accountable and making sure we get all the change that we voted for.”
Jealous said the march will also be a rallying force aimed at encouraging voters to make their voice heard at the ballot box come November.
“We will be in Washington on October 2 and we will be at the ballot box on November 2,” he said.
Photo: NAACP President Benjamin Jealous addresses a press conference during the NAACP convention this month. (NAACP)