(Seth D. Michaels was on the scene at the Wall Street protests in New York City.)
As the rain set in late Monday, the protesters taking a stand in Lower Manhattan held their ground. For many of those who have come to this park, the issues they are angry about aren’t abstract – they’re deeply personal and real. Many of those present identify as “the 99 percent,”
and many bear signs indicating their difficulties in these economic times–highlighting unemployment or student loan debt.
Renae, a teacher, sees the protests as animated by the same issues that affect her and her family: the need for a voice in the political process, and the need for good jobs.
“Many of my family members have been laid off,” Renae said. “Some of them have been out of work for two or three years. There are no jobs.”
Renae, who teaches U.S. government, sees the protests as connected to her work. “Here I am telling these kids about government and democracy- am I not supposed to be a citizen with a voice?”
Layoffs and budget cuts across the public sector are an ever-present worry for young people like Renae. Cuts to much-needed services, even as corporations and the very wealthy pay remarkably low taxes, motivated her to get involved. “Teachers are bring cut left and right.
Programs are being cut left and right. They’re closing schools. What’s happening to the school system is part of this growing gap between the haves and the have nots.”
Dana, a young woman from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, came up three days ago and is among those camping in the park. “There’s so much anger everywhere,” Dana said, “and I’m glad this is happening. I’m glad people are finally coming together to do something.”
Dana was glad to see the emergence of this new protest movement around the idea of economic justice, but after three days in the park she’s hoping the community develops a more concrete agenda for action.
We’ll continue to watch these protests closely as we fight for good jobs and real democracy across the country.