On the two-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street – and as a part of the November 17th national day of “bridge actions” organized by labor unions and the AFL-CIO – more than 1,500 Occupy Boston residents, community members, union members, and students gathered at Dewey Square in the middle of a dreary, hazy rush hour commute.
The cool temperature and rain did not stop the enthusiastic crowd that donned rain ponchos with union logos, signs, and umbrellas. Attendees were greeted by union activists handing out glow sticks and gathering for a lively rally in support of the Occupy movement with the message of “Jobs, Not Cuts”.
The Boston march from Dewey Square to the Charlestown Bridge and back to the financial district remained peaceful. As traffic was brought to a halt at the height of rush hour in the downtown area, spectators watched from office buildings, bars, and restaurants. It was clear that the marchers’ optimism and determination paid off. While police presence was very strong, especially at the entrance to the Charlestown Bridge, the entrances to the Bank of America and the Fidelity building, the Boston Police Department was extremely cooperative with protesters by clearing traffic a quarter of a mile ahead of the frontline.
Organizing for the national day of action started about a week before the systematic evictions of several Occupy encampments across the country.” Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President, stated in his email to supporters, “They can take away the tarps and the tents. But they can’t slow down the Occupy Wall Street movement. This movement has created a seismic shift in our national debate—from austerity and cuts to jobs, inequality and our broken economic system.”
An unemployed union member rallied the crowd at Dewey Square, saying “The economy has left our communities vulnerable. This is why we are here today to demand the government stop the cuts and instead tax the multi-billion dollar corporations like Bank of America and General Electric so we can mend our schools and bridges and create other jobs needed in our communities.”
The spirited crowd worked their way up Atlantic Avenue led by a team of bagpipes and toward the Charlestown Bridge.
March organizers selected this bridge because the steel structure built in 1900 is a symbol of the kind of infrastructure projects that could put people to work. In 2006, the Charlestown Bridge was one of 50 bridges in Massachusetts classified as structurally deficient with conditions that need monitoring. A few years earlier, more than $4 million dollars was spent strengthening the bridge, but to cut costs and reduce capacity officials closed the two center lanes. Those lanes remain closed, and necessary improvements to the bridge unfunded.
Members from seven trade unions highlighted such neglect and deferred maintenance to the crowd that gathered at the Washington Street entrance. All speakers issued messages of hope and unity in the fight for an improved country, both economically and socially, using the People’s Mic.
Frank Callahan of the Massachusetts Building Trades Council, had this to say at the Charlestown Bridge: “We want to work. We don’t want unemployment checks, we want paychecks! We want to get back to work building this country, building our families, building our communities!”
Just before reaching the Bank of America building at 100 Federal Street, a Boston Police Department detective approached us to ask what our role was in the march, commenting on how “great this march was.” This lead to an amicable discussion about Dewey Square, the homeless and the potential for drug abuse within the camp.
From Los Angeles to Boston in more than 50 major cities across the U.S., Occupy activists staged acts of civil disobedience, marching and protesting at banks, city halls and college campuses. The Occupy Wall Street website announced International solidarity actions occurring in Spain, Germany, and Japan.
Before the march began that day, a letter was delivered to Occupy Boston via email from the Rose Kennedy Greenway to Mayor Thomas M. Menino . The letter was dated November 8th, and requested in certain language that Mayor Menino, “enforce our regulations and remove the occupiers from the Greenway.”
Many marchers seemed unaware of the Greenway’s appeal to Menino or unfazed by the potential for eviction of the encampment as they chanted, “We are unstoppable, another world is possible.” The recent temporary restraining order granted against the City of Boston has prevented a forcible removal of occupiers from Dewey Square before December 1. The effect of the letter on this restraining order is remains to be seen.
With General Assemblies meeting in neighborhoods and campuses across the city, the sense is activists will pull together to defend the encampment from eviction. Occupiers nationwide are responding to the nationwide evictions with the sentiment that “You can’t evict or arrest an idea.”