Impressions of the DC Protest Supporting Wisconsin
Last Saturday a protest expressing solidarity with the one in Madison, Wisconsin called “The Rally To Save the American Dream” occurred at DuPont Circle in Washington, DC. The protest was short, beginning at 12:00 Noon and ending at roughly 1:30 PM. It was organized by a coalition of progressive organizations including Move-on and Democracy for America. Union representation was also strong and included the DC Teachers Union, and the local Chapter of National Nurses United, a well as other local Unions. I've seen very little coverage of the protest in local newspapers here or on the national news and cable outlets, and unless I've missed something, this piece will probably be the most detailed report on the DC protest you will see. But, I'm afraid that it won't be a journalist's report; it will be a participant observer's.
My wife, daughter, and I arrived at DuPont Circle a few minutes before noon. The crowd was thin then, perhaps 500 or so. The atmosphere was very good-natured, and there was a palpable air of celebration. Saturday was a great day in Washington, a little cool at noon, but getting warmer, and there was a hint of Spring in the air. The rally started a bit late, but not outrageously so.
As the rally leaders started talking DuPont Circle began to fill up. Soon the numbers in the circle had more than doubled. People were packed in. I've seen estimates of crowd size at 1,000. But, this was the biggest 1,000 person crowd I've seen in my lifetime, and, in my view, it was at least twice as large as that. Here are some crowd photos taken by my daughter.
I've said the crowd was good-natured and celebratory, and so it was. When speakers and rally leaders exhorted people to chant about being united and not being afraid, or mentioned Scott Walker and then paused for jeers, or joined in the singing of “On Wisconsin,” or cheered Unions, or yelled for National Nurses United, or supported the DC Teachers Union, or booed the Wisconsin Republicans, and cheered the Democrats who had walked out, or booed some other villain, the protesters responded with joy and good feeling. The experience of being united and standing up for what they believed, outweighed any feelings of anger, and when these were expressed, the expressions themselves were more joyful than angry.
To borrow a phrase from the title of a 1960s book, DuPont Circle felt like “The Springtime of Freedom” last Saturday; like the early days of yet another hopeful movement for change: before such a movement meets serious, and perhaps violent resistance, and before its supporters get very, very angry at the outrages still to come. High points of the rally included a speech by a George Washington University student talking about the experiences of his family; protesters trying to sing the Wisconsin fight song without really knowing the words, telling stories about what was really going on in Wisconsin and about the distortions and lies the Republican decision makes and media were telling out there, and also a pretty good speech by Van Jones, the environmentalist President Obama threw under the bus, as soon as the right-wing talk show brigade began to tell lies about him. Here's a video of part of Van Jones speech from Sum of Change:
I was glad he pointed out that progressives are fighting for the Tea Party people too even if they don't know it, and also that he emphasized the lesson of no compromise and the theme of “Liberty and Justice for All,” and emphasized the “Justice for All” part, since that's certainly the boat that this Administration has missed. Sum of Change has more videos from the rallies including more of Van Jones talk and also some interviews.
I think that “The Save the American Dream Rally,” was quite successful in its own terms. The turnout was very good considering the short time frame of organization of several days. The enthusiasm was good, and the speeches, particularly Van Jones's, certainly got the protesters excited. Participants will remember their experiences at this one and will come to others. And I think there may be many others.
The Government austerity program favored by the national political class is magnified in its effects at the state and local level. These Governments are not sovereign in their own currency, as the Federal Government is. States also have institutions requiring annual balanced budgets, yet during recessions their tax revenues fall drastically, while their social safety net expenses increase.
Most States are in trouble. The President and the Democrats needed to have the Federal Government pick up anticipated State shortfalls to make it unnecessary for the 50 State Hoovers to apply Hooverism. But, in passing their extremely underfunded stimulus plan, the Democrats and the President made it necessary for the 50 State Hoovers to make “tough choices.” In some states this means shared sacrifice. But in many, if not a majority of States, it means cutting taxes for the rich and cutting spending that benefits the middle class and the poor. The enforced austerity intensifies the American class war.
When people voted last Fall, they voted for jobs and against the Democrats who failed to provide them. They didn't bargain for drastic cuts in Government spending at all levels, killing any chance of a recovery and lead to greater unemployment. Yet that is exactly what austerity will produce, and as it does so, we can expect other Wisconsins, and other protests in many places, including much, much larger ones in DC that demand Justice for All, including: justice for the banksters and the fraudsters, for the torturers, for the unemployed, and for all the hard working Americans who've gotten screwed by the years of outsourcing, the crash of 2008, and the ridiculous bailing out of Wall Street and the big banks at the expense of Main Street. That justice may be some time in coming. But one day when the rising gets large enough, it will come; and the voice of the people will be heard once more in this land.