OAKLAND, Calif. - Demonstrators gathered around the country Aug. 10, under the auspices of the new Rebuild the Dream coalition, presenting their representatives in Congress with the Contract for the American Dream and calling on public officials to respond to the economic crisis by putting people back to work in good jobs and investing in services and infrastructure.
"We want to send our message loud and clear. We're not going to step back and let them keep robbing us, keep blaming the working class, blaming the poor and letting the rich get off!" rally organizer Cassie Lopez told the first of two rallies here, a noontime gathering of some 50 protesters at the Social Security office.
Calling the deficit agreement "a class war, a race war," Lopez said, "We have a right to health care, to earn a decent living, to be treated like human beings, because we produce the wealth of this nation. Without us, they would have nothing!"
MoveOn organizer Charley Davidson pointed out that the vast majority of Americans, including nearly three-quarters of tea party Republicans, want to uphold Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Davidson noted that many Democrats have also bought into the story that the deficit is the biggest current problem. "It's really important that we get this message out to as many people as we can," he said, adding that job-killing cutbacks are only going to get worse with the deficit reduction agreement now before Congress.
At both rallies here, much emphasis was given the need for big cuts in military spending, including bringing troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, while assuring proper care for the country's returning veterans.
As over 70 demonstrators gathered for an early afternoon rally at Oakland's Federal Building, organizers shared a copy of the Contract for the American Dream with a member of U.S. Representative Barbara Lee's staff, and expressed their great appreciation for Rep. Lee's work to end the wars, uphold human needs programs and expand jobs at home.
The Contract, which Rebuild the Dream says emerged from on-line and in-person gatherings involving over 130,000 people around the country, calls for investing in infrastructure, creating "21st century energy jobs," and investing in public education. Also, offering Medicare to everyone, good jobs with labor rights, removing the cap on incomes subject to the Social Security tax, taxing the rich, ending the wars, taxing financial speculation, and strengthening democracy with clean, fair elections.
Elsewhere around the country, the rallies' focus varied according to the positions taken by congressional representatives.
In Chicago, demonstrators cheered as Rep. Jan Schakowsky announced her own jobs bill to create 2.2 million jobs, the Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act.
But in North Carolina, demonstrators called on freshman Republican Rep. Renee Elmers to change her stance on the deficit. "We need something like FDR did back in the 1930s, when he had his Works Progress Administration program," said MoveOn member Rohema Miah.
And in Minnesota, Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum, who voted against the debt ceiling agreement, heard from constituents unhappy with President Obama's role in the debt ceiling agreement. Responding that the president negotiated the best deal he could get, she said Obama "could be clearer" about insisting that tax hikes for the wealthy be part of future deficit-reduction legislation.
Photo: Cassie Lopez, (l) and Charley Davidson, (r). Marilyn Bechtel/PW