The oversized American flag was back, waved proudly.
Also back were unions representing nurses and transit workers and teachers and who knows how many others? And contingents of gays and lesbians, Latinos and blacks, Palestinians and Jews. And a middle-aged guy wearing a green T-shirt, proclaiming himself part of the 1%.
Also back was the Zuccotti Park meditation group, this time holding forth on the west side of Union Square, its dozen participants shutting their eyes and murmuring “Omm” amid the noise from speech after speech, slogan after slogan, drum beat after drum beat. Back, too, was the informal Occupy library featuring tables of political books – mostly for sale this time – as well as copies of the (free) Occupy Wall Street Journal, and pamphlets touting every possible cause.
Perhaps fearing a riot, the Starbucks on the east side of Union Square shut its doors, two uniformed employees manning the doors to insure that absolutely no one could get in – frappucinos for the masses needing an energy boost be damned! And yes, the police were out there, too – squad car after squad car, cop after cop so close to the marchers that it sometimes seemed as if the police, too, were part of the protest.
“We’re marching because the two political parties are taking us to the edge of a cliff, one walking, the other running, and we’re arguing about speed, not destination,” explained John Murdock, 36, a host of a Thursday afternoon talk show on WBAI radio.
“We had not been debating the things that really matter,” he said. “If we agree to (the other side’s) terms of debate, we lose. Instead, Occupy changed the terms of the debate.”
Post Citizens United, which allowed virtually unlimited corporate funding of candidates, Murdock had “given up hope” on America. With the rise of Occupy, Murdock is pushing for taxpayer-funded campaigns, devoid of outside contributions. And since politicians in thrall to megadonors would never pass such measures, Murdock is marching with Occupy to help push this. Christina Winsor, an NYU graduate student recently arrested for allegedly disrupting an auction of a bank-foreclosed home in the Bronx, waved a sign bearing this Thomas Jefferson quote: “The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed corporations.”
Winsor was here to push for “more progress for everyday people. The government is not representing me. I want that to change, and see bankers who brought on this crisis arrested.” Susan Angus, 60, has been helping the poor for 30 years through the Commission on Volunteer Service and Action, and has “never seen it as bad as it is now.” So, she was out recruiting volunteers – and marching.
“The difference between the 60’s and now,” she said, “ is that then, we were marching to end the (Viet Nam) war and for civil rights. Now, we are addressing the heart of the matter, which is economic inequality” (Indeed, the inequality theme has been echoed as far as Citigroup stockholders, who recently voted down the compensation package for its president, Vikram Pandit, which the New York Times estimated at $49 million dollars per year. Although the vote is unprecedented, it is also advisory, rather than mandatory).
And so the marchers poured down Broadway, wave after wave, drum after drum, sign after sign. Yes, Occupy’s force dissipated over the winter. And yes, especially amid forecasts of rain, it was unclear how forceful the movement’s presence would be this spring.
But the clouds parted, the sun shined, and Occupy was back. For anyone counting out Occupy, the marchers had a simple message. Not yet. Not by a long shot.By Joseph Hanania, Aslan Media Columnist