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'Make the bankers pay!'... More than 20,000 protest against education cuts, Mayor Bloomberg's hypocrisy, on Wall Street

More than 20,000 people, many of them teachers organized by New York City's United Federation of Teachers, jammed Wall Street on May 12, 2011, to protest proposed cuts from the city's public school. One of the aspects of the cuts that has most angered New York teachers and other public workers is the fact that New York City is currently showing a budget surplus of more than $3 billion, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg insists that up to 6,000 teacher jobs must be cut because there might be budget problems in the future. The demand for cuts comes from coast to coast, mostly on the basis of claims (as in Chicago) that there is a looming "budget deficit", but the New York proposals show, union analysts say, that the cuts are being proposed as a matter of policy, and not because of fiscal problems (which could easily be solved by increasing taxes on the wealthiest people).

The following articles are collected from various news sources in New York City reporting the large demonstrations (20,000 or more) held on May 12 against Wall Street on behalf of the city's schools and other public services. As reported below, the demonstration was organized in cooperation with the United Federation of Teachers, Local 2 AFT, and other major organizations.

'Make the banks pay!' was a slogan on May 12 from New York to California. Photo from United Federation of Teachers website. THE NATION ARTICLE (WITH FOOTNOTES) FOLLOWS BELOW HERE:

Massive Wall Street Protest Draws Over 20,000 by Allison Kilkenny, May 13, 2011, Published on The Nation (http://www.thenation.com)

More than 20,000 protesters descended upon Wall Street Thursday to demand an end to Mayor Bloomberg’s draconian education cuts and his soft touch approach to billion-dollar companies.

The May 12 event began as a series of splinter cell protests in the radius surrounding Wall Street that ultimately converged on the financial district.

Among those leading the march on May 12 were United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew (center, in blue shirt) and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten (second from right). Photo from United Federation of Teachers website. Those in attendance included Reverend Al Sharpton, the United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, and various members of the City Council. At the education protest, teachers came out in droves to protest Bloomberg’s recent decision to lay off thousands of teachers. Additionally, educators were demanding Bloomberg ask his rich friends on Wall Street to sacrifice along with everyone else.

David Pecoraro, a math teacher at Beach Channel High School and a parent to a high school freshman, attended the protest to represent the interests of his students and his son.

“All are going to be denied the right to a quality education because of these politically motivated, unnecessary cuts,” said Pecoraro, adding that it’s not just a matter of denying educations to youth, but the education cuts are dangerous in some cases, too. Some of his son’s classes use heavy machinery, and the cuts mean there’s less faculty to supervise the students. “[Bloomberg] is playing with the kids’ lives,” he said.

On top of the thousands of teachers Bloomberg plans to lay off, the mayor hasn’t replaced the 5,000 educators [1] who were also fired in the last five years.

Pecoraro doesn’t see the layoffs as part of a fair compromise plan in which all citizens are asked to share sacrifice. “I haven’t seen any of [Bloomberg’s] billionaire friends lose anything,” he said. “There’s no millionaire’s tax on the city level. The Bush tax cuts got extended, so these guys are still partying hardy. The party’s got to end. I’m tired of people trying to take my kid’s education away.”

The march coming to Wall Street on Thursday, May 12, 2011. Photo from United Federation of Teachers website. Protesters consistently referred to the city’s $3.2 billion budget surplus [2] (pdf) as proof that the mayor hasn’t run out of money, but rather he’s simply making bad decisions by catering to the interests of the wealthy elites.

Michelle Hamilton, a teacher at The Albert Einstein School, said that Bloomberg isn’t asking the people responsible for tanking the economy to forfeit anything. “The sacrifices are being asked for from everyday people,” said Hamilton.

Meanwhile, teachers are desperately treading water in their overcrowded, underfunded schools. Hamilton puts her own money into buying books for her students, and in order to pay for trips and basic supplies.

The situation makes for a bleak future. “It’s not fair, but it’s also not wise. You can’t build a country when you’re not educating children properly."

Some attendees view the budget cuts as a first shot in a much larger cultural conflict between the wealthy ruling elites and working class people. Mike Fox, a teacher at a Brooklyn charter school, believes the cuts and layoffs are the start of a class war. “It’s anti-city worker, so I’m here not just as a teacher, but for sanitation workers, policemen, firemen, all of the people who make the city work,” he said.

As for sharing the burden, Fox said he doesn’t see people other than the poor sacrificing, and Bloomberg is playing too nice with the corporations on Wall Street when he should be demanding they contribute fairly to society.

According to the UFT, the march stretched 24 blocks through the city on May 12. Photo from United Federation of Teachers website. “Corporate sacrifice is an oxymoron,” he said. “I don’t think that’s in their vocabulary. I don’t think that’s in their nature. You know that expression don’t ask the question if you don’t want to hear the answer? Don’t ask them to sacrifice. You tell them what they have to do. We have legislatures. We have political leaders. Lead. Don’t ask. Tell.”

Educator Gloria George called Bloomberg’s decision to lay off thousands of teachers “disgusting,” adding, “I think the mayor should come into our classrooms and see the wonderful jobs our teachers do every single day. The cutbacks mean we’ll have overcrowded classrooms, no more libraries, no more art, no more gym. Where are all of those children going to go?”

When it comes to comparing the sacrifice on Wall Street with the sacrifice paid by schools, George said it’s not even a worthy comparison. “[Wall Street] is talking about their jobs. We’re talking about saving the lives of children.”

Eileen Feliciano Quinn, a schoolteacher, silently struggles for a few moments to think of a response to Bloomberg’s cuts that doesn’t include profanity. “It’s B.S.” she finally remarks. “He has enough money to keep teachers in the schools, and he’s protecting Wall Streeters. Why are they not sacrificing? We saved them, didn’t we? It’s their turn to save us.”

“We can’t get smart boards in our classrooms for the kids because the principal doesn’t have any money,” she added. Smart boards are interactive, computer-driven whiteboards that are used as cutting edge technology in many schools. Many educators view the boards as a good way to keep American students up to pace with other countries that also employ the high-tech tools.

“We don’t have an art teacher because we don’t have the money,” Quinn said, “We don’t have a science teacher because we don’t have the money. The only reason we have a music teacher is because it’s through a grant.”

Arthur Goldstein, the UFT chapter leader at Francis Lewis High School described the overcrowding that already plagues NYC schools and how the cuts will make things exponentially worse. “We have a building designed for 2,100 kids. We have 4,200 kids in it. If Mayor Bloomberg cuts 8 percent of working teachers, we’re going to be even more overcrowded,” he said.

Goldstein teaches in a trailer. In fact, the trailer has been his teaching home for eight years. His school halved every classroom with a divider, so instead of holding 34 students, each room now holds 68 pupils. “The rooms have paper-thin walls. You can hear every sound...It’s unconscionable that Mayor Bloomberg treats any school like this,” said Goldstein.

Bloomberg’s decision to grant $60 million [3] to Geoffrey Canada to build a charter school raises Goldstein’s ire (other donors included Goldman Sachs and Google). Goldstein sees this as wealthy elites and corporations funding charter school ventures while public schools go to waste.

“[Bloomberg] treats us like something he wiped off the bottom of his shoe. I don’t know how this man sleeps at night,” he said.

The May 12 protest was overwhelmingly peaceful, with tens of thousands of activists moving throughout the city streets in an orderly fashion. However, a small group of anarchists did cause a ruckus at one point, and the NYPD swiftly put up a pliable fence to contain the cell, though many people who were not part of the bloc, including myself, also got swept up. It was then that a shoving match began between police and protesters. The NYPD used crushing force against the activists, at one point physically shoving protesters backwards by their faces. Ultimately, the police arrested several people.

When my cameraman and I managed to escape the half-hearted kettle, we joined up with the protest again and spoke with UAW member, Gibb Surette, who said the country’s resources are being wasted on military spending and tax giveaways for the rich. “Then we’re being told there’s nothing left in the cupboard for children, poor people, sick people, job development, or just about anything else we need,” he said.

Powerful interests are siphoning the wealth for themselves during a time of financial crisis, he added. “It reminds you of hyenas. When hyenas go out and look for resources, they prey on the very young, they prey on the very old, they prey on the sick and those who can’t defend themselves.”

Larry Goldbetter, another UAW worker, explained why the union joined the march on Wall Street. “This is where the money is. This is where the thieves who stole it are. We’ve come for what’s ours,” he said.

Goldbetter wasn’t impressed by Bloomberg’s call to share the burden. “We’ve sacrificed enough. [Wall Street] is handing out bonus checks. We’ve come for what’s ours. We created all of this wealth.”

Like this blog post? Read it on The Nation’s free iPhone App, NationNow. [4]

Source URL: http://www.thenation.com/blog/160653/massive-wall-street-protest-draws-over-20000

Links:

[1] http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/01/28/possibly-15000-more-nyc-teachers-could-face-ax/

[2] http://www.nyc.gov/html/omb/downloads/pdf/sum5_11.pdf

[3] http://schools.nyc.gov/Offices/mediarelations/NewsandSpeeches/2010-2011/newpromiseacademyrelease4611.htm

[4] http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nationnow/id399704758?mt=8

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A BRIEF NBC NEWS REPORT FOLLOWS HERE:

Thousands of people marched from City Hall to Wall Street Thursday to protest tax breaks for big banks and Mayor Bloomberg’s planned budget cuts that will eliminate thousands of teacher jobs.

The protest was organized by labor leaders and community groups who want Bloomberg to close tax loopholes and more closely regulate financial practices of big businesses.

Holding signs that read “Make Banks Pay” and “No Cuts,” protesters gathered at eight spots around downtown Manhattan Thursday afternoon before converging at City Hall and then marching to Wall Street.

Organizers said 10,000 people turned out for the rally.

“Rather than lay off teachers and slash vital services for kids and seniors, Mayor Bloomberg needs to take another look at those who have been letting the working poor and the middle class make all the sacrifices,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

The mayor's $65.7 billion budget plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1 calls for laying off about 4,100 teachers and slashing an additional 2,000 teaching positions through attrition.

The mayor has said the cuts are necessary to shore up the city’s budget deficit.

Community leaders participating in the rally say the plan unfairly chops at the needs of middle and lower income people while allowing banks and massive corporations to go unchecked.

“Our communities are hurting due to foreclosures, unemployment, and cuts to services. It’s time to demand that big banks change their ways or simply stop doing business with them,” said Jean Sassine, of the advocacy group New York Communities for Change.



Comments:

August 21, 2014 at 3:05 PM

By: john hall

Sharpton protesting budget cuts

There's something I don't understand.Back in 1990 when David Dinkins was mayor of New York

City and had to make cuts to the city's budget,Sharpton was nowhere to be seen.You didn't hear a peep out of him.But now that

Bloomberg is mayor and is making similar

cuts,Sharpton's out there leading the protest,calling the cuts unfair.So what I'd

like to know is WHY wasn't Sharpton out there

protesting back in 1990 like he's doing now?

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