NEW YORK-This city's streets, including Wall Street, Twitter accounts and cell phone text message networks were abuzz with anti-Wall Street sentiment as tens of thousands of people participated in a demonstration, either on the ground or virtually, called by the AFL-CIO and its allies in the NAACP, National People's Action, MoveOn and dozens of other community and labor organizations.
Unlike the tea party demonstrations, this rally reflected New York City in its size and its diversity. The crowd was white, African American, Latino, Asian, young and old, poor through middle-income, trade unionists, community organizers; everyone, aside from big bankers, was represented.
"America is about more than making just easy money," AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka told those gathered. "It's about more than just looking out for number one. Our lives and our livelihoods are all bound together, and we're all paying the price for those who knew no limits to their greed."
"The price of that greed," he continued, "was eight and a half millions of jobs lost" and millions more that were never created.
Trumka went on to voice the rally's three main demands: that Wall Street stop fighting reform, stop dangerous speculation, and for it to "take responsibility and clean up the mess you made."
According to NAACP president Ben Jealous, the fight against corporate greed really began in earnest with the 2008 elections and goes hand-in-hand with the 2010 mid-term elections. "If they think that all those voters that we registered in 2008, if they think that all those young organizers that we brought out in 2008 have somehow disappeared, have somehow given up, have forgotten that change is not what happens on election day, but what we make happen every day," Jealous said, "they've got something else coming."
Jealous added that it was time to "come out of the bleachers, and into the streets."
By the labor federation's estimates, 15,000 people came out for the march on Wall Street under the slogan, "Good Jobs Now! Wall Street Must Pay!"
Another 16,000 "virtual marchers" made their voices clear as well, through Twitter and other social networking sites. "Finally," one tweet read, "a populist non-tea party march replete with diversity." Another highlighted the hypocrisy of the Tea Party movement's talk of fighting the big banks: "10,000 people march on Wall Street today to protest for Financial Reform and not a tea party member in site! hmmmm"
This, along with other demonstrations across the country, led by labor and its allies, is being considered a beginning point to in building a bigger, broader movement that will challenge Wall Street, protect the Democratic majority in the Congress, and counter the tea parties.
Organizers are using all methods to keep people informed of upcoming demonstrations, including cell phone text messaging. Throughout the rally, organizers exhorted members of the crowd to text the word "reform" to 225568. Anyone who does will receive alerts from the AFL-CIO about upcoming demonstrations.
One demonstrator said that this was "better than the tea party demonstrations." He went to one-and only one-on April 15th, he said, because they purport to be against the "huge banks that are running this country." He won't return though, because "they were crazy people, racists, so busy hating Black people. I only went because there was nothing else."
"Now," he said, "I'm going to wait for [the AFL-CIO and other organizers of the anti-Wall Street march] to text me."
Photo: Art Perlo