Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Activists Brave Rain, Tell K Street Lobbyists: ‘We’re the Face of Democracy’

Photo credit: Bill Burke/Page One

Under a sea of bobbing umbrellas, some 2,000 union and community activists—clad in a colorful array of T-shirts covered by rain ponchos, many improvised with trash bags—showed K Street lobbyists and Wall Street’s Big Banks “the face of democracy” today in Washington, D.C.

We staged the Showdown on K Street because it’s a notorious avenue of high-priced, influence peddling, Big Bank and corporate lobbyists. Speaking to the crowd, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler said our presence sent a clear message that Wall Street needs to pay for the jobs its reckless practices destroyed and to stop its $1.4 million a day bid to kill Wall Street reform legislation.

The 11 million jobs lost in this crisis are real jobs. But they weren’t really lost, were they? They were stolen. You might say that these jobs were collateral damage. The casualties of K Street and Wall Street.

We’re not going to stand for that. We need good jobs now. We need to invest in America now. And Wall Street needs to pay.

Photo credit: Bill Burke/Page One
Photo credit: Bill Burke/Page One
AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler: K Street and Wall Street have been bleeding Main Street.
Photo credit: Bill Burke/Page One

At the beginning of the rally on the K Street side of McPherson Square, the Rev. Eugene Barnes, director of National People’s Action, which co-sponsored the event with the AFL-CIO, SEIU and MoveOn.org, told the crowd:

“We’re here today to bust up the Big Banks.”

Joel Hirschey, a laid-off junior high school science teacher from North Syracuse, N.Y., said the Big Banks need to be held accountable for economic disaster they created that has rippled across the entire economy. The economic disaster is hitting especially hard on school districts. He said that while some 300,000 teachers have been or are facing layoffs, drastic education budget cuts mean “students end up paying the price,” in the form of crowded classrooms, elimination of vital programs and fewer resources.

With AFT members in the crowd handing out “Pink Hearts, Not Pink Slips” stickers, AFT President Randi Weingarten said:

“We need to save America’s kids. That’s why we need to keep teachers’ jobs.”

As the rally left the park and filled K Street curb to curb, marchers chanted, “Tell me what does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like,” and “We’re going to beat, we’re going to beat, we’re going to beat, beat back the Big Banks’ attack….”

A massive wheeled float led the march, atop of which stood a 40-foot tall greedy banker pulling the puppet strings of a member of Congress. At the intersections of K and 14th streets, the entire march came to a halt, kneeled and blocked the intersection for more than 30 minutes with the giant banner, “No Bank Is Too Big Jail,” soaring above.

Speaking through a bull horn, Kia Alvarez from American Democracy Project said:

Here in the belly of the beast and we are confronting the power of the Big Banks….Our communities are crumbling and we refuse to be quiet. Banks refuse to reinvest and they are making huge profits.

Undeterred by the steady and sometimes heavy rain, the marchers headed down several more blocks, chanting “Whose street? Our street” and “Bank of America. Bad for America.”

The crowd reached the doors of the Bank of America branch at Pennsylvania Avenue and 15th Street, just across from the U.S. Treasury building, where they shut down traffic again and called out Bank of America as one of the biggest Wall Street culprits and foe of Wall Street reform legislatio

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