The Washington Post

Occupy DC: Is Obama listening?

An ‘American Spring’ (er, Fall) has sprung—as applauded by former Vice President Al Gore—with a resurgence of populism and protest mirroring that which is taking place in the Middle East and Greece.

Derenda Campbell (L) and friend Micki Bean, both from Hallsville, TX make protest signs prior to the "Occupy Wall Street protests spreading lightly across the nation to Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC on October 6, 2011. They are with (Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post) (Linda Davidson/THE WASHINGTON POST)

But now, in harmony, residents across our nation are demanding accountability from Wall Street and imploring our legislators and the President to salvage the American dream. Wednesday’s “Take Back the American Dream” was part of a three-day event in the District that was organized by former White House adviser Van Jones.

Mara D. Johnson, a retired teacher from District of Columbia Public Schools. (Joy Freeman-Coulbary/Joy Freeman-Coulbary)

Her son, Rahn Johnson, a graduate of Hampton University, has been unemployed off and on for over a year. He had a promising graphic design career at inNew York, she said, but came home to save her life by donating a kidney. She has recovered and is eager to have her son’s career re-established.

At the Capitol on Wednesday, protesters rallied for comprehensive health care, equality in education, full voting enfranchisement, and freedom from poverty and hunger. “We cannot make economic policy in a moral insurance is not comprehensive health care,” Leah Hale of National Nurses United said during her speech.

As worldwide financial markets falter and crash, the price of food rises, wars rage on and joblessness begets hopelessness.

Amid that, a global spring is blossoming, as the poor and working class across Europe, the Middle East and the United States demand a say.

In the New York protests, some held signs that declared, “Obama, we are your base.” Is the President who campaigned in 2008 on the “audacity of hope” and “change” listening? Are Republicans and Democrats in Congress listening?

Shawn Wygant, of Pittsburgh, predicted that the victor of the 2012 presidential race will be the candidate who most credibly campaigns for job and wealth creation for the working class.

“Regardless of party affiliation, if you campaign for jobs and improving opportunity for working Americans, you might just be the next president,” said Wygant, who is trying establish a food co-op in Pittsburgh.

I support the American Jobs Act, but I have grave concerns that the new Colombia, Korea and Panama trade agreements promoted by the Obama administration and being considered by Congress, might further derail the American dream of job growth and security.

Why offer more free trade to countries with abhorrent labor policies and deplorable wages? It only encourages U.S. outsourcing, unfair labor practices here and abroad and drives down wages.

Americans cannot compete with countries where sub-standard wages are the norm. It is yet to be seen whether an economy can flourish that’s primarily consumer-based without manufacturing and production.

Is this new trade agreement just another gift horse to corporations disguised as a strategic move to stimulate the economy, while sending jobs overseas? The pivotal question for 2012 is who will hear the cries of the unemployed, under-employed, and uninsured?

Listen to them, Mr. President.

“My daughter just got laid off. I am a first generation immigrant and proud of my country. But I am afraid of the direction in which we are headed. I am worried that greed is taking over our country and threatening our democracy,” said Gisella Miller of McLean, holding a sign that read “Don’t Destroy the American Dream.”

Joy Freeman-Coulbary, a Washingtonian, is a civil rights attorney. You can reach her at and follow her on twitter @enJOYJFC

The Root DC

A well earned thank you

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