Contingents of workers, belonging to at least 15 of the nation’s largest unions, swelled the Occupy Wall Street crowds into the tens of thousands yesterday as they marched into Manhattan’s Foley Square.
It was the biggest day yet for the anti-Wall Street protests that have been going on in the seat of world finance for more than two weeks. Hundreds have, during that time, camped out and slept over in Manhattan’s Zucotti Park.
The massive turnout boosted the spirt is of the “99 Percent,” who have faced pepper spray and mass arrests since beginning their protest on Sept. 17.
Members of the United Auto Workers, the Transit Workers, the United Federation of teachers, the Service Employees, public service workers belonging to AFSCME, and the Steelworkers, among others, all joined the march. More than 40 community organizations came from all over the city.
Union nurses, members of the National Nurses Union, were cheered as they marched into the square.
The numbers were boosted even more as thousands of students at New York colleges walked out of their classes in support of the action and made their way to the financial district.
1000 New York University students gathered in Washington Square Park and then marched through the streets to Foley Square. “Show me what democracy looks like!'” many of the students chanted. “This is what democracy looks like,” others chanted back.
Students from hundreds of college campuses around the country walked out of class in a nationwide show of solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests, which have spread now to at least 80 cities.
Claims by the corporate media that the demonstrations lack focus must not have been heard by student demonstrators who seemed quite clear about their concerns. Many cited the rising amount of student loan debt and the increasing cost of college, in addition to the lack of decent jobs for college graduates.
Occupy College’s Facebook Page announced a countrywide student walkout at noon, Eastern Time on Tuesday. “Do not go to school,” it read. “Go fight for yours and everybody else’s rights. The time is now to join our fellow 99 percent!” By Wednesday morning, 75 schools had registered and, within hours, there were pictures all over the Internet of student-led walkouts that were underway.
In Boston, students at Northeastern University walked out of class and demonstrated on their campus commons in support of both the “Occupy Boston” and “Occupy Wall Street” movements. They blasted student debt, high unemployment and corporate greed. “How do you fix the deficit? End the war, tax the rich,” they chanted.
In Seattle, the police must not have heard that repressive measures have, thus far, resulted in even bigger turnouts at the protests. Yesterday, police decided to enforce a law that prohibits camping in parks to remove protesters from Seattles’s financial district. They hauled away tents and made 25 arrests.
Climate activists have joined the protests too. Along with some of the 350.org people who have been at the Wall Street protests, a coalition of youth and environmental activists lead by the Energy Action Coalition are holding an Occupy Wall Street “sleep-in” at the U.S. Department of State to protest the Keystone XL pipeline.
“At previous hearings along the pipeline route, big corporations and their front groups bussed in people, paid for line sitters, and skirted the rules,” said Energy Action Coalition co-director Maura Cowley. “We’ll camp outside of the Reagan building to make sure that our leaders get the chance to speak out against this potentially catastrophic project. Wall Street, Trans Canada and Big Oil are occupying out political system, it’s time for us to occupy the State Department.”
The Occupy Wall Street protests have won the support of members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
“We share the anger and frustration of so many Americans who have seen the enormous toll that an unchecked Wall Street has taken on the overwhelming majority of Americans while benefiting the super-wealthy,” reps. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Keith Ellison, D-Minn., said in a joint statement.
The fourth-ranking House Democrat, Caucus Chairman John Larson, D-Conn., released a statement yesterday saying, “The silent masses aren’t so silent anymore. They are fighting to give voice to the struggles that everyday Americans are going through.”