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An idea whose time has come can’t be evicted
30,000 rally in Foley Square as Occupy movement continues to focus attention on critical issues
by Micah Landau | November 24, 2011 New York Teacher issue
Two days after being evicted from its home base in Zuccotti Park, the Occupy Wall Street movement roared its response on Nov. 17 as tens of thousands of workers, students and community members gathered in Foley Square to mark the movement’s two-month anniversary and call for jobs and economic justice.
More than 30,000 New Yorkers, including scores of UFT members, participated in the celebratory evening rally, which coincided with rallies and marches in other cities across the country as part of the movement’s “national day of action” to “resist austerity,” “reclaim the economy” and “recreate our democracy.”
In New York, protestors flooded into Foley Square from all directions, filling it as far as the eye could see.
“Bloomberg, beware! Zuccotti Park is everywhere!” chanted the demonstrators, representing all ages and races and a wide array of unions and community organizations, as the hip-hop group The Black Collective performed from one of the three stages set up around the square and drummers and a marching band played from inside the crowd.
In a departure from the typical labor-community rally in New York, no politicians, union leaders or leaders of community groups spoke in Foley Square, replaced instead by those directly affected by the economic crisis that has gripped the country since the economic collapse of 2008.
“Like many of you, I have to work two jobs to pay for school, and tuition is getting more expensive every day,” said Paula Martinez, a City University of New York student and mother. “Going to college should not be a privilege of the 1 percent.”
A student in a public middle school decried cuts to art, music and after-school programs in city schools while another speaker, unemployed for four years and trying to keep her mortgage afloat, promised Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, “We’re not going anywhere.”
After the rally, demonstrators crossed the Brooklyn Bridge as a projector set up below flashed words of support and encouragement onto the side of the nearby Verizon building. “We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!” protestors read aloud in unison as car horns honked in support. “Look around. You are part of a global uprising.”
The names of the cities with occupations — Denver, London, Boston, Phoenix, San Francisco, Las Vegas and countless others — flashed faster and faster on the side of the building until the light show ended with the words, “Occupy the Earth.”
Larry Sachs, an English-as-a-second-language teacher at PS 57 in the Crotona section of the Bronx, said he came out to the rally to call for jobs and protest against economic inequality. “A lot of people need jobs,” Sachs said. “And a lot of other people are getting big bonuses they don’t deserve.”
Sachs also called for the continuation of the state millionaire’s tax, without which he said “there will be a lot more cuts and more teacher cuts.”
“If you make seven figures, it’s not a lot of money,” he said of the surcharge tax. “You won’t even miss it.”
Another educator, John Yanno, the chapter leader at the Secondary School for Law in Park Slope, said, “We see Wall Street being bailed out, yet we see budget cuts at our school.”
Jay Futterman, a District 75 paraprofessional for 34 years, described Occupy Wall Street as a “spark” that has unleashed anger and the desire for change.
“Looking from one side of this country to the other and around the world, it’s a movement that’s not going away any time soon because people are disgusted,” Futterman said.
— Maisie McAdoo contributed to this story.