In Lower Manhattan, protesters split anger among banks, Washington, joblessness
Thursday, April 29, 2010; 9:35 PM
NEW YORK -- The official target was big banks, but the message was aimed at Washington as much as Wall Street.
Thousands of union workers, students and unemployed New Yorkers angry over high unemployment, reckless financial industry practices and billion-dollar bailouts gathered Thursday to march in the financial district in Lower Manhattan, one of a series of rallies organized by a coalition of labor and community groups.
Although the anger was clearly directed at Wall Street, the protesters directed much frustration toward lobbyists and lawmakers in Washington, where the Senate had hours earlier begun floor debate on the regulatory reform bill after Republicans ended a three-day filibuster.
Amid the sea of signs depicting pigs with cigars and berating Wall Street bonuses and greed were slogans such as "Financial Reform Now" and "Eliminate the Budget Deficit."
Michael Mulgrew, president of the trade union of teachers in New York City, kicked off the two-hour event by leading the elbow-to-elbow crowd in a call for employment opportunities.
"Good jobs for all!" he shouted, with the crowd chanting back in a roar.
After a few rounds, Mulgrew said, "Did they hear it on Wall Street?"
"Yes!" the crowd answered.
"Did they hear it down in Washington, D.C.?"
"Yes!" the crowd shouted.
One by one, speakers, including teachers, those on government housing assistance and religious leaders, called for legislative action to spur banks to lend more to small businesses and pay more in taxes. One young mother of five, who said she could not find a job because of the economic downturn, called for a tax on speculative bets made on Wall Street.
"We need financial reform so we can graduate high school and go to college," said Adolfo Abreu, a 17-year-old student at the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics.