#J17 – A Big Tuesday for People Power

The big story of 2011 was the discovery of strength in numbers. From Egypt to Ohio, we woke up to a world where mass protest and mass action could be a change agent against entrenched, powerful interests.

January 17 is the first test of 2012 to see what people power can do in this new year. Here are three spots to watch:

The Walker Recall. We don’t yet know the final number of how many Wisconsinites signed petitions to trigger recall elections against Governor Walker and Lt. Governor Kleefisch. But the organizers are doing a great job playing the expectations game and teasing us with small details.

For instance, we have heard reports that Washington County, reportedly the “reddest” county in Wisconsin, turned in over 8,000 signatures to recall the Governor. We know that the effort to recall Walker’s closest legislative ally exceeded expectations in the similarly conservative 13th Senate District. We know that the effort overall has been successful in small cities and rural areas of the state, in addition to the bigger cities where last year’s uprising was strongest.

Here’s something else we know: the petitions that will be turned in later today to the state elections board weigh 3,000 pounds.

Recall organizers are holding a press conference at 3pm Central, and we’ll provide updates as they come along.

Occupy Congress. Members of the 112th Congress, sporting the lowest approval ratings in a generation, return to what they call “work” on Capitol Hill today. Joining them will be men and women representing the Occupy Wall Street movement, using this opportunity to call for jobs, an end to corruption, Internet freedom, and the abolition of corporate personhood.

As I type, Occupiers are gathering at the Capitol Building in DC. Some will seek meetings with representatives; others will hold teach-ins on various topics throughout the city. Already, there’s been news of the protesters overcoming obstacles to get to DC, like a Greyhound bus driver who stranded a group of 13 travelers in Amarillo, Texas.

To watch events unfold live, the folks at Occupy Congress have compiled multiple livestream feeds here at j17live.org.

An End to Foreclosure Fraud, Or Just the Beginning? Over 21,000 people have signed messages to their state Attorneys General opposing a slap-on-the-wrist settlement that would let banks off the hook for illegal foreclosure activities like robo-signing.

Thanks to you, it seems like the AG’s are feeling the pressure. Last week, AG’s or their office representatives from 14 states met in Washington, DC to discuss alternatives to the current settlement deal.

“This past Tuesday, a group of like-minded Attorneys General met in D.C. to discuss ongoing and future investigations into the mortgage finance and foreclosure industries,” said Delaware Deputy Attorney General Ian McConnel.

“The talks weren’t just about investigations,” said a source with knowledge of the discussions. “They were also about the attorneys general offices feeling uninvolved in a process by which their federal colleagues have been negotiating on their behalf.”

Please note: This group was bipartisan – just as the group of AG’s pushing the weak settlement deal is bipartisan. Calling for a full investigation into illegal practices – reportedly widespread throughout one of the nation’s most profitable industries – is not a partisan issue. If the banks aren’t held accountable this time, what incentive do they have to stop throwing families out of their homes under false pretenses?

No matter where your AG is on this issue, please make your voice heard – sign our petition here.

Photo by Matt Baran on Flickr, via Creative Commons.

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Clocking Out: Occupying the News Edition

Occupy Wall Street is Time Magazine’s top U.S. news story of the year.

Value Proposition: 30 top corporations spent more on lobbying than they paid in taxes.

Don’t look now, but the political class is nervous about Occupy Wall Street.” A look at what’s behind the GOP talking points.

“My representative was considering not voting for unemployment insurance because he thinks there are lazy people milking the system.”

Speaking of politicians disrespecting the unemployed, here’s Maine Gov. Paul LePage.

How Obama’s speech yesterday took on “you’re on your own” economics.

“Obama has finally acknowledged that the elephant in the room is crushing us.”

Another failed attempt to jump through hoops to try and disprove the fact of inequality.

Occupy Our Homes promises the 40 homes that were the focus of yesterday’s actions are just a start.

An immensely promising direction for the movement, harnessing its DIY energy to the needs of real people.”

“What changes here isn’t the solvency of the trust fund. What changes is where the money comes from.”

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SLIDESHOW: Occupy K Street

I stopped by the Occupy K Street protests in Washington, DC and took some pictures. I wanted to rush back and share these pictures with you as soon as possible. Seriously, there is still rain in my shoes.

We’ll have more on this soon, but chances are you’ll hear about it on the news tonight.

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#NYCMarch2DC Arrival In DC Shows A Movement That Won’t Back Down

You could hear them a few blocks away from McPherson Square, but it was clear when the honks started that they had arrived. Marchers, about 25 of whom had been walking since they started at Zuccotti Park on November 9th, turned the corner and entered the occupy encampment at McPhereson Square carrying flags, backpacks, and smiles.

The #NYCMarch2DC started as group of protesters at Occupy Wall Street who wanted to march all the way down to DC. They had been planned to arrive by November 23, 2011, the day the Super Committee was to deliver a plan to cut trillions from the budget. It’s telling that while the Super Committee couldn’t follow through on their difficult task, the Marchers grew larger and more committed as they made their way South. A few of the Marchers I talked to said they had joined at various points along the way: at Philadelphia, Trenton, Newark, and Baltimore. They had given updates on the road with Twitter and web video, but other than that they seemed straight out of a history book.

When members of the media surrounded the Marchers and tried to peel off individuals to interview, they sprung into action. Via Mic Check, we were told that there would be a General Assembly, including a crash course in direct democracy, several testimonials, and a Q  and A. They were efficient in their methods and spoke with authority to the members of the press. This was not the ragtag, disrespectful group portrayed on Fox News and talk radio. The Marchers, many from other occupations on the East Coast, were in complete control.

Through the rain and the crowd of cameras, it was difficult to pick up on everything that was being said, but the testimonials I heard were incredible. A student from Philadelphia, $80,000 dollars in debt, dropped everything to march for her fiscal freedom. An older economics professor, fed up with the backwards debate in Washington, instead joined the Marchers and shared his experiences with them. The march showed “that even with technology, it is still possible for us as Americans to share a few steps together – to share a few words together,” he said.

One of the coolest stories was from a man who had hosted the Marchers in his home as they made their way to DC. “Members of my family were worried about having the protesters in our home,” he said, adding that watching the news, one might think they “had fleas and slept in their own feces.” Turns out, they left his home “better than it was when they found it.”

The pressing contrast for me is to compare these Marchers with the people they intended to protest, the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, or the “Super Committee.” Those who walked from New York or Trenton or Baltimore showed incredible resilience – one of them even got hit by a car! Yet they kept walking, kept tweeting, and kept sharing their stories with those they met along the way.

Meanwhile, members of the Super Committee didn’t only announce failure this week. Several of the committee’s Republican members, most prominently former Wall Street trader Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) are seeking to undo the trigger mechanism that was set up to motivate the committee in the first place.

Supercommittee member Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said Democrats were not motivated to reach a deficit-reduction deal because the automatic cuts that were triggered by the panel’s failure were unfairly weighted toward programs that are important to Republicans.

“There was an asymmetry in the motivation,” Toomey said Tuesday on Townhall Radio. “If you just look at the sequester, let’s face it, there are a lot of Democrats whose lifelong ambition has been to cut defense spending.”

This attitude of constantly spinning the truth and constantly passing the buck is typical for Washington, DC, but it is unfamiliar to the Marchers I saw today. They walked through every iteration of weather, every neighborhood, and every rural highway to accomplish the goal they set out.

I still hope they get a chance to meet Congress. The buck-passers and spin-meisters that currently occupy the U.S. Capitol could learn a thing or two from them.

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Promise Kept: Delivering Your Letters to Occupy DC

Earlier today, a group of Working America staff and members went to the Occupy DC encampment at McPhereson Square to deliver over 6,000 solidarity letters from around the country.

We delivered a “Mic Check” call for the occupiers to come and listen to the stories. We invited our members Karen, Cadera, and Tatiana from Pennsylvania read a few of your letters out loud.

The stories were varied. Michael from Anaheim, California, wrote about his own experiences with foreclosure:

Thank you for doing and saying what so many of us are not able to do. I am proud to say, in fact shout, that
I support you and that I am one of you. My house goes to auction in a few days, and because of the greed of bankers and Wall Street that led to this collapsed economy, my 11 family household members will have nowhere to go. Thank you for doing this, hopefully we will help others even though it is too late for me.

Amanda wrote in from a small town in Ohio:

My neighbors have had so many economic problems; they’ve had to sign away their land for potentially dangerous oil and gas drilling, just to get by. When you stand up to end Wall Street greed, you stand for all of us, and for what this country needs: more compassion, for our people and our land. Thank you for your courage and sacrifice!

From a suburb of Philadelphia, Steve sent in this declaration:

Don’t stop until we have new regulations for banks. And people are held accountable. – – Don’t stop until the rich start paying their fair percentage of taxes. – – Don’t stop until we get a real health care system. – – Don’t stop until we start spending more money on education and less on wars. – – Don’t stop until we start getting real about wide spread green energy. – – Don’t stop until we reduce the influence of lobbyists in Washington. – – Don’t stop until we get a campaign finance bill. – – Don’t stop.

Those stories and over 5,000 more are now resting in the library at Occupy DC. As our staff member Bridget told the grateful occupiers: “If you ever need to recharge, you can flip through some of these stories and remember the 99 Percent is behind you.”

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