The Occupy Wall Street movement staged a massive rally on Wednesday night, drawing on the newfound support of labor unions to attract thousands of protestors to downtown Manhattan and amplify its critique of economic inequity.
The protest was the largest since Occupy Wall Street began over two weeks ago, and it underscored the movement's increasing sophistication and breadth. Union members wearing the t-shirts of their local shops marched alongside students, community organizers and activists.
Protestors began by massing in Occupy Wall Street's base camp of Zuccotti Park, where veterans of the movement warned others to stay on the sidewalks and to remain respectful of police officers, an attempt to prevent a repeat of the mass arrests that marred a protest on the previous Saturday. They then slowly proceeded towards Foley Square, pounding drums, waving signs and chanting slogans that included We are the 99 percent and We got sold out, banks got bailed out.
Thousands of protestors converged on Foley Square, where a procession of union officials addressed them from a yellow flatbed truck. With the United States Courthouse looming behind them, the speakers leveled withering critiques against Wall Street prospering while the rest of the country endures stubborn unemployment and deep budget cuts.
Working people are going to stand together until we get fair justice in our economy, said George Gresham, president of the Service Employees International local that encompasses New York. We want to make sure our children have a future in this country that is not subservient to those who have more than they need.
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Several of the speakers suggested raising taxes on the wealthy, and all of them urged solidarity between the unions and Occupy Wall Street, which to this point has been a nebulous movement without explicit goals or leadership.
We need to form an alliance with labor and all of you, said Stuart Applebaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. We need to work together. We urge you to support worker's rights, to support living wages for all New Yorkers.
Afterwards, protestors flowed slowly back into Zuccotti park. For over an hour, masses of people advanced slowly down Broadway. Michael Zweig, a professor of economics at the State University of New York, Stony Brook who was holding up a sign for Labor Against the Wars, praised the terrific energy of the protest.
People who have mobilized the through the corporate world, through the Tea Party, have found their counterpart here through people who are organizing themselves, Zweig said.
You can contact the reporter at j.white@IBTimes.com