Labor unions and college students joined the Occupy Wall Street protesters for a massive end of the day rally on Thursday, capping a day in which the movement flexed its muscle despite having lost the ability to live in Zuccotti Park.
Held in Foley Square, in the shadow of the court where a judge on Tuesday ruled that the protesters did not have a constitutional right to erect tents in Zuccotti Park, the demonstration featured a heavy union component. Hats, shirts and placards representing various union shops proliferated among the crowd near the stage, and the master of ceremonies, Florence Williams Johnson, is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union. While organized labor has supported the movement since its formative days, Johnson offered a message of solidarity.
Let us not forget that this is not just a union fight, Johnson said, adding that the people present were indebted to Occupy Wall Street for show[ing] us the way.
All of us are united, not separated by words that they have used to divide us for too long, Johnson said.
Neither union leaders nor elected officials were present, despite the fact that numerous City Council members have expressed support for the protest. Instead, people testified about the economic hardship they have endured, speaking of foreclosed homes and vanished jobs while decrying deep budget cuts. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a favorite target, with any mention of his name prompting a tsunami of boos.
To Chase [bank], who refused to give me a refinance, we are going to chase you out of here, said a woman who described having lost her job and her home. It is so hard to live in a broken economy, she added.
There was also a heavy contingent of college students, many of them City University of New York students denouncing raises in tuition. One student, who said she was working two jobs and raising a one-year-old, told the crowd that college should not be a privilege for the one percent.
We are the 99 percent, and this crisis is not our fault, she said.