Occupy Movement Faces Arrests, Aims at Verizon and Foreclosures
While Occupy Wall Street and the Communications Workers rallied against runaway corporate power at New York’s Verizon headquarters Friday, Occupy Detroit marched from the downtown park it calls home to Bank of America.
Occupy Oakland faced police firing rubber bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas into their encampment before dawn Monday.
“I just can’t believe the hypocrisy of it,” said Stan Woods, an unemployed warehouse worker and member of Longshore and Warehouse (ILWU) Local 6.
Woods said that Sharon Cornu, a former director of the Alameda Central Labor Council and current chief of staff for Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, gave police the OK for the raid. After 75 arrests and the destruction of their encampment, protesters promised to reconverge.
In Chicago, 134 Occupy activists were arrested Sunday when they refused to leave a downtown park. They were held in custody for up to 19 hours, a punishment that Steven Ashby—a labor professor and arrestee—says was inflicted by the Democratic mayor in an effort to break the spirits of the protesters.
“The movement will go on. It will grow,” Ashby said. “Intimidation tactics only make people more determined to fight. The occupation is not leaving.”
Hundreds demanded an end to foreclosures in Michigan, filtering onto a downtown arterial at noon, chanting, “From New York to LA, occupy the USA.”
Michigan ranked seventh in the United States for foreclosures in 2010. One out of every 33 homes received a foreclosure notice that year.
The roughly 200 protesters turned the corner to find a contingent of Auto Worker and other union and community supporters in a solidarity rally already under way.
Rank and filers came from the State and Municipal Employees, Teamsters, and Teachers (AFT) unions, bolstered by a big turnout of UAW officials and ranks. Within a half hour, the rally had outgrown the sidewalk and spilled into the adjacent street. Police were ready with metal barricades to contain the demonstrators in a small section of the street.
“The banks got the bailout, we got the shaft. The UAW is out to support working class people, whoever you are,” said a Chrysler factory worker.
Ed Rowe, pastor at Central United Methodist Church declared through a bullhorn, “If you’re going to a house of worship and people aren’t out in the streets with you, what are you doing there?” He called on people to mobilize their communities of faith.
Linda Jackson, a Detroit teacher retiree, said she came out to protest the bank because of the effect foreclosures have on schools. “How can you concentrate on what you’re doing if you’re afraid you’ll be out on the street?” she asked. “Students are facing the same challenges.”
As the protest grew, police were unable to halt a march of about 150 that broke away and roamed the Greektown area, which features many casinos. No arrests were made.
“People are so afraid, usually,” said Jasmine Geary, a publicist and member of the Occupy Detroit media team. “But everybody’s got each other’s backs today.”
The protesters, singing and chanting along the way, called for restraints on the biggest casino of all—back on Wall Street.
Chanting “we are the 99 percent,” several hundred Occupy Wall Street protesters joined hundreds of CWA members to march through lower Manhattan.
“Everybody is scared, except the people at the top of the heap,” said one participant, in a video CWA released. “To me, that’s what the Occupy Wall Street thing is about. It isn’t just a few young people. Everybody’s scared. I’m a retired guy, and I’m afraid they’re going to take away my health benefits.”
The Communication Workers said they had defeated a third of the immensely profitable company’s giveback demands in bargaining since an August strike, but announced in October that major concessions remained.
CWA told members that Verizon still insists on greatly increasing health care costs for current workers and retirees, and wants to destroy pensions, job security, and limits on transfers and contracting out.
Local officials warned 45,000 members to prepare for another strike as top officers urged them to flyer at wireless stores, asking customers not to upgrade to the newest iPhone until Verizon settles a fair contract.
“Workers have been treated like dirt for too long, and especially at Verizon,” said another marcher. “Our CEO must feel like we’re expendable.”
Solidarity runs both ways. Noting that Occupy Wall Street protesters have joined their pickets repeatedly, 20 Verizon workers spent Friday night in the park with them.
“I’ll sleep in the park, I’ll sleep in the snow, I’ll sleep in the rain,” said Ken Spatta, a CWA Local 1101 member. “I’ll sleep in the gutter, because without the labor movement this country is finished.”
Eduardo Soriano-Castillo and Mischa Gaus contributed to this article.