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November 07, 2011

Minority Groups Show Solidarity With 'Occupy' Protest Movement

by Peter Fedynsky

Hundreds of African Americans and Hispanics marched the nearly 18-kilometer length of Manhattan on Monday, to show solidarity with New York's "Occupy Wall Street" protest.  Although the "Occupy" movement does not have a specific agenda, it appears to be inspiring people to generate specific policy proposals.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Washington Heights, an economically depressed neighborhood at the north end of Manhattan, for a march to the Occupy Wall Street camp on the south end of the island.

New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat says the Washington Heights neighborhood is suffering double-digit unemployment, lack of affordable housing and quality health care.  He charges the federal government bailed out distressed banks and Wall Street brokerage firms after the 2008 financial crisis, but not small businesses in this hard-hit area.

“They haven’t gotten a penny.  They’ve been doing this bare-handed.  We recognize that the government has to do more, and that’s why we’re calling for the implementation of the millionaire’s tax.  That’s the government action to bring help to our communities," he said.

This Washington Heights textile store is going out of business, a victim of high rent and slow sales because of widespread unemployment in the area.

Across the street, Nassar, the manager of the Zodiac clothing store, says his store could suffer the same fate, because business is down 40 percent over the past two years.  He says he supports the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators and welcomes the idea of a so-called "millionaire’s tax" in New York state.

“I’m for it because the people who make more money [are] supposed to pay more money.  You know what I mean?  Because there are so many people struggling in this country.  Unemployment is very high.  And I hope this thing helps.  At least they have to try it," he said.

Occupy Wall Street is focusing attention on the wealthiest one percent of Americans, but the movement has made no specific tax or policy proposals.  Still, the proposal to tax millionaires appears to strike a common chord between the demonstrators on one hand, and the politicians and small businesspeople in Washington Heights on the other.

Sherman Jackson, one of the protest movement’s media representatives, says he expects this will generate more such examples of synergy. “As this progresses, the longer that we’re here, the more occupations that take hold throughout the country and throughout the globe; more succinct, more precise, more substantive recommendations are going to come forth," he said.

Many of the Washington Heights marchers say this was their first involvement with the Occupy Wall Street protest, which is now in its eighth week.  There are scores of similar demonstrations taking place throughout the United States and the world.