WASHINGTON – The August earthquake shook loose some stones on the Washington Monument, but 10,000 protesters demanding “Jobs NOW” shook the obelisk again on Oct. 15.
“If Congress can’t get the jobs bill done in the suite, we will get the jobs bill done in the street,” thundered Al Sharpton, leader of the National Action Network – one of the groups sponsoring the demonstration. “It is time for us to occupy,” Sharpton continued, referring to the Occupy Wall Street movement sweeping the nation. “It’s time for us to take back America!”
Speaking to the big crowd in the Sylvan Theater, Sharpton denounced lawmakers who blocked President Obama’s $447 billion jobs bill while ramming through tax and trade policies, which have subsidized the export of millions of jobs overseas to lands of cheap labor.
If lawmakers refuse to “stand up for the unemployed, we’ll help make sure you join the unemployed,” Sharpton declared, referring to the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
Sharpton admonished the news helicoptors flying overhead to “look at [us] today – we’re just getting started! Let them see us stretched from Lincoln and Jefferson to Martin Luther King Jr.!” He closed with “There’s a new address in town: The King Memorial! Let’s march!”
Among the sponsors of the action were the NAACP, Veterans for Peace, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, AFSCME, MoveOn, Service Employees International Union-1199, Communications Workers, One Nation, and the Postal Workers. Several busloads traveled all night from Detroit, filled with members of the United Auto Workers.
More buses came from union halls in Baltimore, Atlanta, New York, and Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Union locals, AFL-CIO Central Labor Councils, and state labor federations organized them.
The protesters rallied at Freedom Plaza and marched to the rally site, the Sylvan Theater, on the south side of the Monument.
Other speakers included the Rev. Martin Luther King III, Robert Bates from the Brady Campaign (against handguns), Josh Williams, the Pres. of the Washington Metro Council of AFL-CIO Unions, Hillary Shelton from the Washington NAACP, Michael Mulroo, from the United Federation of Teachers, Marc Morial from the Urban League, and Randi Weingarten from the American Federation of Teachers.
‘Father John,’ from the Black Farmers Association, praised Obama for fighting for jobs. “I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna support the President all the way. We need jobs!”
Lenox Yearwood from the Hip-Hop Caucus decried the voter-suppression ID bills in many states; “Respect my vote!” he said.
Terrie O’Neil, president of the National Organization for Women, said, “We have a jobs crisis, not a ‘deficit crisis.’ Shared sacrifice? The wealthy don’t want to share our sacrifice! Where’s the balance in shared sacrifice? African American women suffer 40 percent of the layoffs, but are only 12 percent of the workforce.”
Walter Andrews from the Communications Workers of America said, “Democrats need to stop playing games and put Americans back to work! No jobs, no justice!”
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis led the crowd in a chant:”What do we want? Jobs! When do we want them? Now!” She remarked, “It is a crime to live in this rich nation but receive starvation wages!”
George Grisham from 1199-New York said, “We need jobs and justice for working people. We’re not taking this anymore! We are the 99 percent. We’ll march ’till we have no shoes left! They say cut-back, we say fight back!”