2.26.2011 Rally To Save the American Dream: The REPORT
On a seasonably warm Saturday last weekend, cities around the United States held rallies in support of Public Sector unions and worker’s rights, not only in Wisconsin, but in all 50 states as well. In Richmond it was held on the lawn of the Virginia State Assembly, underneath the historic bell tower.
The message was straight forward, workers need protection from poverty/slave wages, dangerous working conditions and a courrupt company bosses and politicians who seek to impoverish the lives of americans and destroy the country they’ve created thru the hard work.
Sat, Feb 26th, 2011 12:14pm
Upon arrival while walking up the hill you instantly noticed a small crowd of about 75 to 100 people trading personal stories and frustrations about the state of affairs in relation to workers rights and politics. Made up of mostly older citizens of an age range of 45 – 65, there were from a mixture of occupations such as teachers, electrical workers and law enforcement plus others that came from as close as the Fan in Richmond to as far away as Lynchburg, Virginia.
As people continued to show up, spray painted hand-made signs and printed protest signs were on hand for people to take and display during the rally and at their homes later that day.
Though not everyone on the grounds were there for the protest. A few families with children wearing school uniforms were taking in the day, but almost seem to be hurried thru by their father while a seemingly annoyed grandmother walking thru the protest with a small child was overheard saying “…. all these people scared the squirrels away.”
The only local TV station to make a report about the protest was WRIC Channel 8 news. Chelsea Washington was seen with an assisting cameraman asking questions to receive answers from not only union members and protesters, but a local Tea Party member who was in support of the Wisconsin governors decision.
I made an effort to monitor all three channels at the 11pm news slot Saturday night to see if there was a report on the day’s protest and Chelsea Washington’s report was aired, while the other local TV news organizations, WTVR 6 & NBC 12 were a no-show.
Bell Tower 1:00 pm
As the bell tower tolled and Joe Cook, MoveOn.org Council Coordinator of Hampton Roads, began the chants to warm up the expanding crowd or supporters, while Viginia State Police were making themselves present by standing on the peripherals of the protest. A few imposing men in suit and sunglasses made their way into the crowd after speaking with the troopers. It was later realized that they have come as security for one of the speakers.
As the rally got fully underway the crowd grew to about 300+ people, while more were still coming from behind the belltower and adding to the rear of the crowd.
the event speakers included: Richard Hatch of the Communications Workers of America, VEA President Kitty Boitnott, Suzanne Keller of Williamsburg, “UNPAID” Washington lobbyist and former Regional Coordinator for MoveOn.org Andrea Miller, J.R. Tolbert of the Virginia Chapter Sierra Club, Larry Yates and Sandy Delano of Williamsburg.
One of the most compelling stories came from speaker Bill Schaffer who told of his father’s fight for better working conditions in his home state of Wisconsin in the early 1930’s. His father’s experience with a boss made it known that, as a worker, he was worth less than a horse whose stable conditions where far better than those of the men who worked for the company. Being easily replaceable made him expendable, so poor working conditions were not treated as essential to management.
He also spoke to the fact that, as americans were watching what was happening in during the uprising in Egypt, some Egyptians were aware of what was going on in Wisconsin. As this came out a young middle eastern man enthusiastically shouted out that he was there and he had seen that sign.
To my surprise that story begin to make my eyes water, and as continued to shoot photos of the crowd I found myself wiping away a few tears that had escaped down my cheeks. Quickly wiping them away I remained listening while shooting, letting out a few shouts of approval as I worked.
Nearing the end @ 2:00pm
After an hour of listening to the speeches and the stories, hearing and repeating chants of “THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED”, the rally begin to come to a conclusion. The signs were dropped down to the sides of those holding them and faces of the people who came out to voice their support and outrage were becoming more subdued as they walked thru the crowd shaking hands, sharing hugs and moving on to the rest of their Saturday afternoon, not knowing what was to come next in the fight to preserve the American workers’ rights. But for one afternoon in February, Richmond became one with a much larger cause in america…. and around the world.