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by Michael Hirsch | October 13, 2011 New York Teacher issue
“I want to thank Occupy Wall Street and all the people who have shown up to fight for our kids,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew told the young protesters as thousands of labor and community marchers flowed into Zuccotti Park from their march down Broadway.
The combined crowds cheered Mulgrew as he slammed corporate greed, austerity policies that ignore social needs, and the great disparity in wealth that he said is endangering democracy.
“It’s time we stood up and said, ‘This has to stop,’” he said, his words echoing through the crowd as it used a call-and-repeat method known among the protesters, who do not have a permit for amplified sound, as the people’s microphone.
Surrounded by signs reading “Human Need, Not Corporate Greed,” and “It’s Class War and We’re Losing,” Rutgers University student Mark Bray, among those who have been occupying the park — called by its original name, “Liberty Plaza,” by its resident protesters — said he welcomed the embrace of the city’s unions.
“Working people are suffering; many find themselves jobless and homeless,” Bray said. “The media says teachers are greedy. We’re here to tell them to can it.”
Hamza Sinanaj said he came down from upstate Utica to join the occupation. He said his once-bustling manufacturing city now features boarded-up houses on its main streets, a collapsing population and a steep rise in crime, including homicides.
Employment prospects in Utica are scarce. “There’s not much of a private sector left,” he said. Now the state prison, among the largest employers in the Mohawk Valley region, is closing.
“The only ones hiring are the police,” Sinanaj said. “The only middle class in Utica is the cops.”