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2011-11-18

SEIU President, Union Leaders Arrested in OWS Brooklyn Bridge Protest Demanding Job Creation

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Thursday’s protest marking the Occupy movement’s second month anniversary coincided with an event planned months earlier by unions and others. Marches were held on bridges across the country to draw attention to how federal funding to fix ailing infrastructure in the country could put unemployed people back to work. Protesters blocked bridges in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, St. Louis, Houston, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Hartford and Portland. Democracy Now! producer Renée Feltz reports that in New York City, labor leaders were arrested trying to block the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge, including SEIU president Mary Kay Henry. "We think there’s an economic emergency in this country that can be fixed, and millions of people can go back to work in good jobs," Henry says. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Thursday’s protest marking the Occupy movement’s second month anniversary coincided with any event planned months earlier by unions and others. Marches were held on bridges across the country to draw attention to how federal funding to fix ailing infrastructure in the country could put unemployed people back to work.

AMY GOODMAN: Protesters blocked bridges in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, St. Louis, Houston, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Hartford and Portland, Oregon. Here in New York, the Brooklyn Bridge was targeted. Democracy Now!’s Renée Feltz was at the Brooklyn Bridge action and filed this report.

RENÉE FELTZ: We’re here on the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge, where thousands of people are entering after rallying all day long in several parks around the city. Beside me to my left are a line of police, warning people that if they get into the roadway, they could be arrested here on the bridge.

PROTESTERS: Whose bridge? Our bridge! Whose bridge? Our bridge!

RENÉE FELTZ: Among those willing to risk arrest were labor and their supporters, like New York City Council member Jumaane Williams.

COUNCIL MEMBER JUMAANE WILLIAMS: We have a great cross-section of what’s happening. And across the city, people are fed up, people are tired. And it’s just about elected officials like myself, particularly the mayor and the governor, have to harness this energy and make some real policy changes.

RENÉE FELTZ: George Gresham, president of SEIU Local 1199.

GEORGE GRESHAM: Our sisters and brothers in labor are here to support the occupation movement. We believe that this is a voice of working people in this country, that we’re here to raise that voice, something that we’ve been trying to do for years, to talk about the economic disparity that’s happening in this country between the 99 percent and the 1 percent. No one is here to create problems. No one’s here to start trouble. But we are here to voice out in a very militant way that it’s time for the 1 percent to pay their fair share in this country and allow the 99 percent to do the American Dream, and that is to live out our dreams, to make decent wages, to make sure we have good education and good healthcare.

PROTESTERS: They say, "Get back!" We say, "Fight back!"

RENÉE FELTZ: Activists say the Brooklyn Bridge is a prime example of the country’s crumbling infrastructure that needs to be repaired. This is SEIU president Mary Kay Henry.

MARY KAY HENRY: We think it’s really important to get America back to work, so healthcare workers, property service workers, security officers, a lot of members of ours from New York. And there’s hundreds of actions going on all across this country, because we think there’s an economic emergency in this country that can be fixed, and millions of people can go back to work in good jobs. We think this bridge represents the 60,000 bridges in this country that need to be fixed right now, along with schools, along with roads, along with broadband, recycling. There’s green jobs. There’s plenty of work that needs doing. There’s lots of people that want to do it. And we want our government and we want employers to get us back to work now.

RENÉE FELTZ: And what’s the SEIU going to do tonight on the bridge?

MARY KAY HENRY: We’re going to sit down and do civil disobedience to draw attention to the economic emergency for all people in this country.

RENÉE FELTZ: Are you planning to get arrested?

MARY KAY HENRY: Yes. If that’s what needs to be done, that’s what we’re going to do.

PROTESTERS: All day, all week, Occupy Wall Street! All day, all week, Occupy Wall Street!

RENÉE FELTZ: Minutes later, Henry joined scores of her fellow union members and city officials in sitting down in the street to block the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge.

PROTESTERS: We are the 99 percent! We are the 99 percent!

RENÉE FELTZ: Protesters cheered the arrestees on as police cleared the area, handcuffing Henry and the others one by one. Then they marched in waves by the tens of thousands onto the Brooklyn Bridge.

For Democracy Now!, this is Renée Feltz, with Sam Alcoff.

PROTESTERS: All day, all week, Occupy Wall Street!

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