The only mainstream media coverage I saw of the "Showdown on Wall Street" Thursday was on MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan Show. Possibly everyone else was off covering a gathering of a dozen teabaggers, and could not spare the time to listen to working Americans:
More than 5,000 union members and others delivered a crisp message with their march from City Hall to the Bowling Green Bull. In contrast to recent protests on the right, the event was noticeably lacking in loaded and ahistorical symbols like Gadsen flags, and refrained from vilifying individuals in favor of calling out institutions. Of hundreds of signs hoisted, only one was branded with the Obama logo.
The signs were non-partisan and dealt with real problems -- namely, this country's rogue, unregulated finance sector. There was only one puppet, a fanged vampire squid meant to symbolize Goldman Sachs. The banners declared "Wall Street: Never Again" and "Less Audis, More Audits." Almost to a one, they echoed the clear policy demands of the day: regulatory reform, new taxes on banks and speculators, and a jobs bill.
The afternoon began with direct action protests in the lobbies of Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan Chase. Next came a series of speakers -- teachers, students, workers -- that put New York City faces on the nationwide hard times. Representing hundreds of labor, religious and community groups, they demanded Wall Street do its part to fix the mess it created. They railed against budget cuts in city housing, health and education, overseen by the city's billionaire mayor who opposes a financial transaction tax.
"The result of these cuts will be more homelessness, more joblessness and more hunger," said Sean Banks, a high school teacher in Brooklyn. The planned cuts will also result in bigger class sizes. Currently the New York state House and Senate are considering bills that would see New York lay off between 4,000 and 8,500 teachers.
Before leading the march to the Bowling Green Bull, the AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka issued a direct three-part challenge to the banks: stop fighting reform and call off the lobbyists; stop speculating and start lending; and "take responsibility for the mess you made."
The demands resonated with a crowd thick with the unemployed and city workers facing layoffs in their departments and agencies. "These bankers have no shame," said Marie Mitchell, a city clerical worker. "I saw the Goldman Sachs guys on TV the other day, still refusing to apologize for anything. They should be sent to jail, like Madoff."