“We are the 99 percent!” This chant once more rang out loud and clear as activists with Occupy Wall Street inhabited Zuccotti Park, the site of their former encampment near the New York Stock Exchange, and took to the streets to mark the second anniversary of their movement against corporate greed and financial inequality.
When it was first founded two years ago on Sept. 17, the movement’s core message that the rich one percent is calling the shots and impoverishing the 99 percent struck a deep cord with millions of people struggling to make it through the economic downturn. Although the movement splintered and seemed to fizzle after Mayor Michael Bloomberg evicted the protesters from the plaza in Nov. 2012, many of the demonstrators continued their activism in other ways. For instance, Occupy organizers played a lead role in providing disaster relief after Superstorm Sandy hit the region last October.
Even though the Occupy movement itself may be down, it is far from out. As Tsehei H said, “The Occupy movement is very much alive and will continue. It helped people wake up and see that the majority is being ruled by a minority. We’re bigger numbers, but we have less power, and that’s very unfair. This movement has helped educate and energize people about that.”
On this anniversary, Occupy protesters like Tsehei H spent the day shining a spotlight on such issues as the need to increase pay for fast food workers, get money out of politics, and initiate a tax on financial transactions to pay for things like health care and debt relief.
The action kicked off at a McDonalds on lower Broadway, to help bring awareness to the plight of fast food and other low wage workers in a city where nearly half its residents live near or below the poverty line.
As midday approached, activists gathered in Zuccatti Park for a Global Solidarity Protest against the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). This agreement is being negotiated in secret between representatives of governments and giant, multinational corporations while groups representing the interests of labor, the environment, human rights and other crucial issues are shut out of the negotiations. Following this protest, Occupy participants marched to Washington Square Park. There, speakers from diverse organizations such as Public Citizens’ Global Trade Watch, Peruvians in Action New York, World War 4 Report, and Global Justice for Animals and the Environment addressed the crowd.
In the afternoon, the Trans Pacific Partnership Puppet Theater caused quite a stir in Times Square with their humorous but scathing “Star Wars” parody puppet spectacle titled “Money Warz.” In it, the evil forces of the Didactic Empire, Darth Banker, Emperor Pipeline and the Money Troopers were pitted against the good guys of the Open Alliance, Princess Layed Off, Luke Whistleblower and friends. The latter stole the TPP Death Star and escaped in pedicabs with the Money Troopers in hot pursuit.
As evening closed in, the action moved to the United Nations Plaza, where Occupy protesters called for a tax on Wall Street transactions. Dubbed the “Robin Hood Tax,” this legislation would impose a .5 percent tax on Wall Street trades. The money generated would be earmarked for different funds and non-profit organizations that would, in turn, distribute it to schools, hospitals and local governments to meet the need of the population at large.
A very spirited and vocal demonstration also took place at Pace University where a hearing was being held on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption. The protesters’ aim was to hold the governor’s feet to the fire and send him a strong message that this commission must take serious action to clean up political corruption.
The day ended where Occupy Wall Street began, in Zuccotti Park. The Justice for the 99 percent Assembly re-committed to rebuilding this movement to wrest power from the hands of the one percent who continue to profit off of and make decisions at everyone else’s expense, and place that power in the hands of the people where it belongs.