CLEVELAND - Charging that "Wall Street values are strangling our community", 75 union and other activists held a lunch time rally in front of the downtown offices of the PNC and Huntington banks.
The event, part of National Day of Action against Wall St. banks, was initiated by the Service Employees International Union and included Cleveland Jobs With Justice, the Cleveland Council of MoveON and the North Shore AFL-CIO.
Demonstrators carried a large cardboard check for $3.4 billion representing damage caused to the Greater Cleveland community in terms of massive foreclosures, layoffs and cuts in public services stemming from the policies of the big banks.
"We demand that Wall Street pay up," said Anthony Caldwell of SEIU. "We demand the banks stop gouging the public and renegotiate interest rates. We want them to open lending to small businesses to create jobs."
"The banks were bailed out," said Harriet Applegate, Executive Secretary of the North Shore AFL-CIO, "while the people suffer. This is not going to continue. Enough is enough!"
"We are here to protest Wall Street banks and to fight for the 98% of us who don't have lobbyists in D.C.," said Connie Sapin, who wore a MoveOn t-shirt with the logo "The Other 98%."
"We worked to elect President Obama and an agenda for change," she said. "Whether it was a public option (for health insurance), or climate change legislation or federal funding to the states to save jobs or consumer protection, we have met a brick wall of opposition funded by millions and millions of dollars that corporations have spent on lobbying and misinformation and media smear campaigns."
"Corporations," she said, "represent 2% of the people of this country; we are the other 98% who can't afford to be represented by corporate lobbyists."
She said MoveOn had launched a Campaign to Fight Washington Corruption calling for overturning the Supreme Court ruling "giving corporations the right to buy elections" and for reforms in campaign financing and lobbying.
Local Congresspersons Dennis Kucinich and Marcia Fudge have endorsed these principles, she said, as has Lee Fisher, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.
"Democracy is broken," said MoveOn activist Alexandra Lutovsky. "We're Americans and we want our country back."
Photo: Debbie Kline http://debbiek611.smugmug.com/