As the United States marked the birthday of slain civil rights leader the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, some veterans of the civil rights movement were also joining forces with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Singing songs popular during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the newly-formed coalition held its first national day of action at Federal Reserve branches around the United States.
Several hundred protesters gathered at the Washington headquarters of the Federal Reserve, the U.S. central bank, calling themselves "Occupy the Dream." They called for economic justice as they also honored Martin Luther King’s birthday.
Steven Smith is with the Rainbow Push Coalition, which promotes social justice. “To honor him, we have come to be a part of the Occupy movement and to continue in that tradition," he said.
Occupy the Dream is a coalition of the Occupy Wall Street movement and prominent Black clergy. The protest was part of a national day of action at Federal Reserve branches in 13 U.S. cities.
The group has three main demands: an increase in federal grants for university education, an end to home foreclosures and a $100 - billion fund from Wall Street banks for new jobs and neighborhood investment.
Occupy the Dream Co-Chairman Reverend Jamal Bryant told the crowd that this is only the beginning, saying that the group plans more focused actions each month, starting on February 14.
He called for 750,000 to 1 million people to divest their money from corporate banks and open accounts in small community based banks and credit unions. Bryant said the action would promote community control of money and development, rather than profits for Wall Street. “We are getting ready to infuse capital into small banks and to credit unions, and minority banks so that they can have a voice and represent the people in their communities. America has never seen an economic revolution like what they are getting ready to see now," he said.
Bryant told the crowd that one of Martin Luther King’s last acts before his assassination in 1968 was to start the Poor People’s Campaign, which focuses on jobs, income and housing for the poor. More than 40 years later, Bryant said, those issues are still relevant.