Churches Seek to Withdraw $1 Billion From Big Banks
“If our New Bottom Line Coalition can move a billion dollars,” said Rev. Ryan Bell, of Hollywood Adventist Church, in Los Angeles, “then not only does that make a fiscal impact on the banks, but to accumulate a billion dollars worth of transfers you’ve got to get a movement. And that’s what’s afoot right now.” The New Bottom Line Coalition is an umbrella of 1,000 faith-based organizations. Rev. Mario Howell, pastor of the Antioch Church Family, in the San Francisco Bay area, said churches are also pressing local governments to divest from the Bank of America and other behemoths. “If you don’t,” he said, “we’re going to remember you when it comes time to vote again.”
Banks “Swindled” Residents of Mostly Black City
Protesters braved a snowstorm to demand that New Jersey’s attorney general prosecute lending agencies for overpricing housing in Irvington, a 95 percent Black city of 60,000. “Price-fixing is a crime” and the banks that colluded in the crime are “swindlers,” said David Hungerford, of the Coalition to Save Our Homes. The coalition demands that banks be prosecuted and forced to reduce the principle on mortgages by the amount of the over-pricing.
Police Crackdowns Only Fuel Oakland Occupation
A protester who was shot with a rubber bullet while peacefully “just taking some pictures” of police in Oakland, California, said “the movement grows every time the police come down on us; I don’t know why they haven’t learned that, yet.” Scott Campbell added, “If there is one thing that Oakland is known for, it’s police violence.”
Was Protest Really a “General Strike”
“From my perspective, nothing about the situation in Oakland fits or is generally thought of as a general strike,” said Melvyn Dubofsky, professor emeritus of sociology and history at the University of New York, at Binghamton. Most Oakland residents went to work or school on the day protestors called for a general strike. Prof. Dubofsky said “there is no agreed definition” of what constitutes a general strike, but that historically, general strikes involve whole sectors of industry or entire cities and “were called or directed by the local labor unions.” In the final analysis, “the test is whether they achieved their objectives,” he said. Dubofsky is author of The State and Labor in Modern America.
The Occupation is Not a White Thing
“When racist stuff comes up in the larger movement, we’re first to respond to it,” said Andrew Hoyles, of the People of Color Working Group at Occupy Wall Street, in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. One problem is that media seek out “a white face, oftentimes a white male,” to interview. “That’s a struggle. The issues that people of color face didn’t start with college debt.” It’s very important, Hoyles said, “that Black people in America start to see Occupy Wall Street not as a white issue. It’s very much their issue.” The 99% “aren’t just educated white men in debt; it is the ones who have continuously been the first to be fired and the last to be hired.”
UNAC: Economic Justice and Peace are Inseparable
“The effort to end U.S. interventions abroad, to end NATO attacks against nations that are attempting to fight back against the banking elite, are incredibly strengthened by the fact that a real economic justice movement is forming” in the U.S., said Chris Gauvreau, of the United National Anti-War Coalition. UNAC is organizing protests at a summit of NATO and simultaneous meeting of the G-8 nations in May, in Chicago.
Occupation Puts Dems “In a Pickle”
“As far as I can tell,” said Doug Henwood, editor of Left Business Observer, the ramifications of the Occupy Wall Street movement have not yet entered the consciousness of “the market. They don’t perceive it as more than a curiosity, at this point.” The Democratic Party is another matter. “Some of the Democrats are in a pickle,” said Henwood. “It’s a party of capital that has to pretend, for electoral reasons, that it’s not.” If the Democrats embrace Occupation issues, “it would be good electoral news for them, but their paymasters don’t want them to do that.”
Protesters Learn About Real Homelessness
“The people who are now part of that movement are now understanding what it means for the people who were already living on the street,” said Jeremy Rosen, policy director for the National Law Center on Homelessness, in Washington. “Things like, how are we going to stay warm, and where are we going to use the bathroom.”
Jared Ball, BAR editor and columnist: White demonstrators at Occupation events should cease using “slave” and “slavery” metaphors that distort history.
Glen Ford, BAR executive editor: Thousands of federal prison inmates are eligible for early release on crack cocaine convictions.