Sightings on the Mall

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Signs —  many anti-war, pro-more job creation — filled the National Mall on Oct. 2, 2010, one month before the midterm elections as thousands rallied in front of the Lincoln Memorial.


Jackson lauds young people’s participation

By Karina Stenquist and Lynne Perri

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, iconic civil rights leader, said today that the rally at the Lincoln Memorial provides “a bottom-up” approach to change still desperately needed: “We’ve stimulated the leaves,” he said of the economy, “but the roots have become too dry.”

Jackson talks with the Observer before his speech. Photo by Kyoko Takenaka

“What’s impressing me today is the youth participation,” he said of the rally of thousands representing unions, school groups, veterans, the unemployed and employed. “When young America comes alive it always has generative power to change the course,” he added.

Jackson repeatedly said, “Change comes from the bottom up,” and that marches such as the Oct. 2nd one — one month from the midterm elections — was the only way to have a significant impact.  “Mass marches set the agenda,” he said. Moving to the from of the bus wasn’t on the agenda, but the bus boycott put it on the agenda.” “Mass marches can set the agenda.”

Though he said, when asked,  that “Civil disobedience is a tactic that has value,” he said he did not think the time was right for that. But he did say, “Unemployment in America is an emergency,” that needs to be dealt with now, in order for people around the country to again feel as sense of hope.

“We should target jobs in zones of pain,” he said, and referring to such cities as Detroit where foreclosures are high and blocks stand empty. “We need to figure out how to go from dawn to daylight,” he said. “We need not wallow in hopelessness. … people want help.”

Jackson shared his views on change in an interview with American Observer reporters and others at the One Nation rally. Video by Kyoko Takenaka.

Giving Americans a needed “spark”

By Kate Musselwhite

Rally attendee Saul Almanza, a member of the Social Employees International Union who was visiting Washington for the first time, talked about the impact of the recession on his family and community.  He said he thinks events like this “spark” Americans into action.

“You came and asked us, the taxpayers, for help,” Almanza said, when asked what he would say if he could speak directly to the President and members of Congress. “We’re asking for help now.”

Corporate take on U.S. flag invites a crowd

By Annie Stephens

Photo by Kyoko Takenaka

Tom Woods of Kansas carried a fistful of homemade bumper stickers and a giant American flag.

Before Woods injured his back, he worked in power plants, nuclear power stations, paper mills and refineries. He said he came the the One Nation rally, ” to stand up, because for evil to survive all it takes is good men to do nothing.”

He waved an unusual American flag as he spoke, and here, he explains its significance:

California union members spread word of economy, slain civilian

By Jeremiah Patterson

Saturday’s One Nation Working Together Rally saw a steady stream of labor unions gather near the Lincoln Memorial.  Members of Northern California’s Service Employees International Union 1021, which represents more than 50,000 public workers, made the trip not only to rally for jobs, but also to spread the message of Oscar Grant, an unarmed civilian fatally shot by a San Francisco transit officer on New Year’s Day 2009.

Jack Bryson, a member of the California union, said Grant was the son of his best friend, and Bryson used Saturday’s rally as an opportunity to share Grant’s story.  “I’m here to let people know that the police officer was charged with involuntary manslaughter, and that’s not acceptable,” Bryson said.

Other union members also shared messages of economic troubles.  “We’re facing layoffs,” said Gary Jimenez, another union member.  “Many of our members’ families are losing their homes.”

Jimenez said he believes the lack of money flowing into communities and job creation is part of the problem.  “It’s a vicious cycle,” he said.  “The more people you lay off, the less your tax base is, the less your tax base is, the more people you lay off.”

Watch Jimenez give his message to the President and Congress, if he were given the chance.

Scenes from the Mall

The crowd was marked by diversity in age, race and ethnicity. Reporter Karina Stenquist from the Observer staff interviewed people about how the recession has impacted them and their families, what they want the administration to know and why they’re here.

Claudia Hanes and Sam Alessi, two retired school teachers, joined protesters on the mall. Photo by Kady Buchanan

Claudia Hanes, 59, Bowling Green, Ky:

Claudia is a retired teacher who says she’s been lucky and hasn’t peronally experienced any severe economic difficulties in the last few years, “but that doesn’t make me any less concerned. I’m not one of those people that believes I take care of myself and that’s it … Call it socialism if you want, I think it’s a good thing … Our fire department is socialist, the police department is socialist … Government doesn’t have to be the enemy; it has to be competent government.”

“It seems to be ‘I’m gonna get mine and the hell with you’ ” she said of the attitude she encounters frequently in discussing economic policies.

Sam Alessi, 65, Buffalo, N.Y.:

“We’ve slowly watched the subversion and decimation of the middle class and poorer classes,” he said when asked why he came to the One Nation rally.

The retired teaher said, “I was very fortunate and lucky to become a teacher as well … My family came from hard laborers, blue collar, steel plant workers.”

He added, “I’ve seen friends lose their homes, have no health care … Socialism with a small ‘s” is a very worthwhile cause.”

Sisters from the Northern Virginia Alumni chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Social Action Committee, Gloria Roseboro, Alexandria, Va.:

She was in the military but knows plenty of people who have been affected. “We voted for change, and that’s what I want to see,” she said. “President Obama can’t do it alone; the people have to get involved.”

“I’d like to see a decrease in the bleeding of the jobs … I’d like to see the economy go back and look like it did 10 years ago … I think we need to decrease some of the war effort,” she added, echoing the sentiment of many of the speakers.

Bernice Parson, 54, Alexandria, Va.

Her 401k “took a big dip,” she said. “I feel badly for people like my brother who’s working really hard but can’t seem to make ends meet.” She’s here in support of these people. “Praise God, I’m holding my own.”

Pam Gipson, 59, Alexandria, Va.

Gipson says she is one of the lucky ones because she has retired but has sorority sisters who are out of work.

Juanita Green, 58, Wooster, Ohio:

“In Wooster, Rubbermaid outsourced, left Wooster, put a hurt on our community,” said Green. “They laid people off, then hired them back as temps, with half the pay, no health insurance.”

He added, “We’re trying to help the poor and compensate for the rich and it’s killing us.”

About her work with a youth council doing voter registration drives, she spoke of “hopelessness.” She said, “Hopeless people don’t vote and that’s a problem.”

Speaking about recently passed health care legislation, she said health care was her No. 1 concern.  She said the rich were going to have to pay more, but “I don’t know anyone who makes $250,000. I guess I’m selfish, it doesn’t affect me.”

Amber Marcus, 27, Wooster, Ohio:

“I have three kids and I’m married and I’ve supported them for two years on my own because my husband can’t find a job,” she said, though her husband has recently gone back to work as a steelworker. She works in health care, for a private group home.

She wants to see “more jobs. Better jobs.” What does that mean? “Better wages.”

When asked if her family or friends were having a hard time, she said, “Some good friends built a house five years ago and they just walked away from it about three months ago.”

“There’s four of them in a one-bedroom apartment. And this was a $250,000 home.”

Daniel Kennedy, left, Kenny Vanderneut, center, and Steve Bello, right, traveled from New York to the rally. Photo by Kyoko Takenaka

Daniel Kennedy, 42, Staten Island, N.Y.:

He’s quick to offer up his reason for being here,  “Health care.”

“We work for Verizon and have excellent benefits. Starting in 1989, we went on strike for 17 weeks total, just to maintain the level [of those benefits],” he said. He said they struck again in 1998 and 2000 as well.

“Its not because Verizon feels they should take them [the benefits] away, but because they’re being squeezed by the insurance companies.”

Steve Bello, 44, Staten Island, N.Y.:

His frustration with the economy? “Overtime,” he said.

“I never have money. I haven’t had money in 20 years,” he added, laughing, “but I have less money now. They’ve taken away our Sundays,” he said, referring to the double-time pay available for working on a Sunday. “Tomorrow I’m working my first Sunday in two years.”

Kenny Vanderneut, 35, Staten Island, N.Y.:

He said he can’t get something healthy without paying  more. “The environment, GMOs [genetically modified organisms],” are one of his principle concerns. “I have to buy organic food, which costs twice as much money.”

Referring to new products, such as the genetically modified salmon that is on its way to being introduced to the market: “They can release a product and leave it to the sick and the dying to prove it hurts them. But they don’t have to prove it’s safe.”

“Half my salary goes to my food budget … I got kids now and I’m not givin’ them that crap.”

“I spend all my money on food. I gotta buy my meat from Montana, grass-fed cattle from Montana, ‘cause I see what they’re doing to the meat here.”

He also complained of subsidies that go to big agribusiness: “I don’t want my [tax] money ending up in Monsanto’s pocket.”

People gathered well before the noon kickoff of the One Nation rally. Photo by Jeremiah Patterson