NEW HAVEN, Conn.-On October 15th, New Haven, Conn., joined the Occupy Movement with a kick-off march of 1,000 people on the New Haven Green. High school and college students, labor unions, peace activists, university professors, Move On members, and others gathered at noon time first in one corner of the park, then began the march. The march extended around nearly the entire perimeter of four city blocks of the green at times, due to the large number of people participating.
Young people who are leading a campaign in the city called the New Elm City Dream, a campaign pushing for legislation for youth job creation, were among those marching and cheering at the top of their lungs, "WHO ARE WE? The ninety-nine percent!"
As the march repeatedly circled the green, youth and others helped keep the energy flowing with other chants such as "They got bailed out, we got sold out!" and "Whose streets? Our streets! Down with? Wall Street!" At times, the crowd gathered in the center of the green to dance and sing together.
Following the marching and chanting, those present gathered for a General Assembly, one of the signature features of the Occupy Movement. At the GA, the facilitators introduced the universal hand signals that are being used across the country at such meetings, designed to allow participants to indicate their agreement, disagreement, or lukewarm feelings regarding the topic being presented. Anyone is allowed to speak at a General Assembly.
Upon hearing the words "Mic check!" those in the audience are to repeat the words being spoken by the presenter, so that everyone can hear what is being said, even those standing on the fringes of the crowd.
A ten-year old member of the New Elm City Dream stood in front of the gathering and extended an invitation to attend a Youth Jobs March planned for November 2. The young presenter also asked the group to sign her petition in support of the provisions of President Obama's American Jobs Act and Jan Schakowsky's Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act. Sections of the American Jobs Act would create 5,200 jobs for youth in Connecticut. The ten youth present from the New Elm City Dream collected over two hundred signatures on their petition that Saturday.
Wealth inequality is manifested in New Haven in typical fashion. Yale University maintains billions of dollars in its endowment, while escaping its property tax liability to the city by registering as a "non-profit" institution. Each time the University expands, more property is released from the tax rolls and thereby decreases the city's revenue.
Meanwhile, New Haven County remains one of the poorest east of the Mississippi River. School teachers, policemen, social workers, and others have faced the layoffs that other municipalities have endured during the recession.
Also, the city was able to employ only half the number of young people in the summer of 2011 in its "Youth at Work" program, as it was able to employ the previous year.
UNITE HERE, which represents the workers at Yale University, and AFSCME representing the city's workers, have fought together to keep people working during these challenging economic times.
The alliances between young people, the labor movement, the peace movement, and other organized efforts to manage wealth inequality are likely to be fortified through New Haven's Occupy movement. It will require the attention of all those participating to continue Occupy's spirit of cooperation, as the right wing builds efforts to create divisions among these constituencies.
Photo: Lisa Bergmann/PW