Solidarity Time: Young People Occupying
Wall Street Are Standing Up for All of Us
By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On
The actions of thousands of young people in New York City's financial district, simply calling themselves "Occupy Wall Street," is now entering a second week, with many camping out overnight in the area's parks. How long its will continue and whether its numbers will swell is anyone's guess, but the response of the NYPD in arresting and otherwise restricting them is already banging heads with our First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble.
"At Manhattan's Union Square, police tried to corral the demonstrators using orange plastic netting," reports the Sept 25, 2011 Washington Post. "Some of the arrests were filmed and activists posted the videos online. One video appears to show officers using pepper spray on women who already were cordoned off; another shows officers handcuffing a man after pulling him up off the ground, blood trickling down his face."
Most of the youth are students, but many are also unemployed and underemployed young workers. And a small but important grouping of staffers and activists with NYC's trade unions have also made their way downtown to spend a few hours helping out.
The students certainly have a just cause. While the denizens of Wall Street have bailed themselves out and paid themselves huge bonuses with trillions from the public treasury, these young people are saddled with a degree of crushing debt to pay for their educations that would have been unthinkable 40 years ago. If they manage to graduate, they face a financial burden large enough for a home mortgage-all before they start their first full-time jobs, assuming their lucky enough to find one that pays a living wage.
But these youth and students are fighting for more than their own immediate concerns. They have raised a whole range of demands-Medicare for All, defending social security, for passing the various jobs bills in congress, opposing racism and sexism, ending the wars, and abolition of the death penalty in the wake of the recent unjust execution of Troy Davis.
They are the cutting edge of a new popular front against finance capital.
Young rebels often manifest a moral clarity that awakens and prods the rest of us. Through their direct actions, they become a critical force, holding up a mirror for an entire society to take a look at itself, what it has come to, and what choices lay before it. The historic example is the four young African American students that sat at a lunch counter and ordered a cup of coffee in Greensboro, North Carolina back in 1960.
The Wall Street protests are thus a clarion call to the trade unions and everyone concerned with economic and social justice. While the youth are clearly a critical force here, when all is said and done, they are not the main force. That power resides in labor and in the wider communities. It's in the hands of everyone that's part of an emerging progressive majority for peace and prosperity, everyone that wants a U-Turn against the country's current path to more wars and deeper austerity.
It's time to exercise that power and lend a hand with active solidarity. More actions are in the works, including an occupation and encampment on Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC starting Oct. 6, following the 'Rebuild the Dream' DC conference focused on a renewed labor-community coalition for the 2012 election.
It's going to take more than votes to push back the right wing and its Wall Street allies. It's going to take some serious 'street heat' as well.
[Carl Davidson is a national co-chair of Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a national board member of the Solidarity Economy Network, and a member of Steelworker Associates residing in Beaver County, Western PA.