News / USA

Occupy Movement, African-American Leaders Form Coalition

Jeff Swicord

The Occupy Wall Street movement is gaining allies. Our reporter tells us who they are and what they plan to do.

Protesters of the Occupy movement are spreading their wings - joining forces with veterans of the American civil rights movement of the 1960s, and African-American churches.

In Washington, civil rights icon Benjamin Chavis announced the formation of Occupy The Dream.

David Degraw is with Occupy Wall Street in New York.

“This is a very diverse movement as it stands right now," said Degraw. "But obviously we need to do more work to get into the African-American communities and to get into all different ethnic backgrounds, the Latino community as well.”

The African American leaders were drawn in by the issue of income inequality.  More than 15 percent of black Americans are unemployed, compared with an overall jobless rate of 8.6 percent.

Occupy The Dream has three immediate demands: an increase in federal grants for university education, a halt to home foreclosures, and a $100 billion fund from Wall Street banks for new jobs and neighborhood investment.

Benjamin Chavis worked with civil rights leader Martin Luther King in the 1960s,  and mobilized a million-man march on Washington in the 1990s.

“The traditional civil rights movement was at its strongest point 40 of 50 years ago when it had a strong coalition between African Americans, organized labor, progressive white liberal groups, all working together," said Chavis. "And that is what we have to rebuild.”

Occupy The Dream plans its first action for January 16th, the Martin Luther King holiday, at Federal Reserve Bank locations around the country.  Reverend Jamal-Harrison Bryant is a spokesman for Occupy The Dream.

“Every 30 days America is going to see something until we freeze the entire economic system and they realize we are about serious business," said Reverend Bryant.

The response at Occupy camps around the country has been positive, although in the past, Occupy protesters have avoided formal links to other groups.  Kevin Zeese is with Occupy in Washington's Freedom Plaza.

“Having the African-American faith community hear that call and respond is a gigantic step forward," said Zeese. "The potential for that is hard to imagine.”

David Degraw says this is only the beginning.  They plan to draw in other partners and build a bigger Occupy movement through the spring.

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