As I walked around Union Square in NYC yesterday between 4 and 5:30, waiting for the march down Broadway to begin, memories of occupied Zuccotti Park came to mind. Handmade signs about a very wide range of issues were everywhere. There were drumming and musical groups doing their rhythmic things and people dancing as they did so. There was Reverend Billy performing, and an incredibly well done colored chalk piece of artwork on the sidewalk near 17th and Broadway. People everywhere, mainly white folks but diverse, lots of young people but with a significant number of non-young people.
And a spirit of hope, a spirit which declared: “we are here, we are organized, we have not been defeated and we are not going away.”
And so many of us! During the march down Broadway my wife and I stood to the side of the march for a while, holding our own handmade signs (opposing nuclear power and the Keystone pipeline) for marchers to see and watching happily as block after block of people walked past us.
At one point I climbed up on a railing and looked down and up Broadway to get a sense of how long the march was, which looked like between 12 and 15 blocks. Then I did some rough counting of how many people were in half of one of those blocks to come up with my personal estimate that there were probably 30-40,000 people taking part in this action yesterday.
I’m pretty sure this is the largest demonstration Occupy Wall Street has ever done.
Then again, this was not just Occupy Wall Street. About 100 organizations endorsed the May Day action, many of them labor union locals, as well as student, immigrant rights, peace, left, Green and local occupy groups. This was a broad and important coalitional effort, and Occupy Wall Street should be commended for its understanding of the strategic importance of such an effort and the work it and others did to produce such an inspiring result.
It was noteworthy that if there were any signs in support of Obama, or against Romney, I didn’t see them, and I saw a lot of signs as I stood watching the march go by. This was a march that was issue-oriented and very independent in politics and tone.
As the lead headline of the Spring, 2012 issue of “The Occupied Wall Street Journal” put it, this was about the need to “Vote Every Day.”
The closing lines of that article were right on point: “Democracy is not simply speaking truth to power. It’s something we do, that we can’t ask for. Something like a rebellion. The idea is simple and yet it seems far off, like a dream. But this is not a dream. And it’s not far off.”
It is good, it is oh so good, to feel again the way I felt last fall when the occupy movement burst onto the political scene. It’s been a long winter, but it has clearly been put to good use. Let’s keep building, let’s keep acting, let’s uplift the people and defend our deeply wounded Mother Earth. Power * to * the * people.
Ted Glick has been a progressive activist and organizer since 1968 and a climate movement organizer since 2004. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com.