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.”