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November 17: Historic Day of Action for the 99%
NEW YORK - November 18 - Tens of thousands took action Thursday, November 17 to demand that our political system serve all of us — not just the wealthy and powerful. The NYPD estimated tonight’s crowd at 32,500 people, at the culmination of the day of action. Thousands more also mobilized in at least 30 cities across the United States. Demonstrations were also held in cities around the world.
"Our political system should serve all of us — not just the very rich and powerful. Right now Wall Street owns Washington," said participant Beka Economopoulos. "We are the 99% and we are here to reclaim our democracy."
New York led the charge in this energizing day for the emerging movement. In the wake of billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s predawn raid of Occupy Wall Street at Liberty Square, 1:00am Tuesday morning, thousands of people throughout the five boroughs and the greater region converged to take peaceful action. Following Bloomberg’s action, the slogan “You can’t evict an idea whose time has come” became the new meme of the 99% movement overnight. The mobilization today proved that the movement is on the ascent and is capable of navigating obstacles.
The day started at 7am with a convergence of a few thousand people on Wall Street. All entry points to the New York Stock Exchange were blockaded. 'People's mics' broke out at barricades, with participants sharing stories of struggling in a dismal and unfair economy.
Through the course of the day, at least 200 people were arrested for peaceful assembly and nonviolent civil disobedience, included City Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito, City Council Member Jumaane Williams, Workers United International Vice President Wilfredo Larancuent, SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry, SEIU 1199 President George Gresham, CWA Vice President Chris Shelton, CWA Vice President , Fr. Luis Barrios of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization-IFCO, retired Philadelphia Police Captain Ray Lewis, and many others.
"All the cops are just workers for the one percent, and they don't even realize they're being exploited," retired Police Captain Ray Lewis said. "As soon as I'm let out of jail, I'll be right back here and they'll have to arrest me again."
57-year-old bond trader Gene Williams joked that he was “one of the bad guys” and said supportively, “The fact of the matter is, there is a schism between the rich and the poor and it's getting wider."
At 3:00pm, thousands of students converged at Union Square in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. They held a teach-in to discuss their concerns about the prospect of a lifetime of debt and economic insecurity. They held a student General Assembly and marched en masse to Foley Square.
The rally at Foley Square was electric. It was remarkably diverse in participation, across race, religion, gender, and age. As the rally concluded, thousands of participants walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, holding up lights — for a “festival of lights” to mark two months since the birth of the “99% movement”. (November 17 marks two months since the start of Occupy Wall Street at Liberty Square.)
"I worked hard and played by the rules, but when budget cuts hit last year I lost my job as an EMT and now I'm about to lose my family's home," said Bronx resident Carlos Rivera. "I'm sitting down on the Brooklyn Bridge today because it's not fair that our taxpayer dollars bailed out big banks like my mortgage holder, Bank of America, but they refuse home-saving loan modifications for struggling families like mine. It's time banks and the super wealthy paid their fair share and Congress helped people get back to work."
Interviews available upon request.