BY HANK REICHMAN
Leaders of the City University of New York Professional Staff Congress, a joint affiliate of the AAUP and the American Federation of Teachers, and the Rutgers University AAUP-AFT were among fifteen people arrested yesterday at a demonstration in New York protesting the Wall Street funders of the Republican Tax Bill, approved later in the day by the House and Senate. PSC President Barbara Bowen and Vice-President Michael Fabricant, and Rutgers AAUP-AFT vice president David Hughes were among those arrested. Hughes is also a member of the AAUP’s national Council.
The protest began with a rally of some 500 people who heard New York City Public Advocate Letitia James call the bill a “disaster for all Americans.” James led the protesters in chants of “Tax the Rich, Not the Poor” and declared that “All of us will suffer as a result of those who care more about corporations than they do about the people.” She was joined by Bowen, Reverend Brian Gibbs of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, and Michael Kink, Executive Director of the Strong Economy For All Coalition. After the speakers concluded their remarks, demonstrators were led in a back-and-forth chant that ended in a die-in in the street, as demonstrators lay down, holding signs above their heads and continuing to chant. According to a press release by the PSC, 60 people participated in the die-in.
Protesters then blocked the main entrance to the Stock Exchange and much of the intersection of Wall and Broad Streets. They held tombstone shaped signs, signs that said “Tax the Rich!” and “Stop Wall Street Theft” and giant checks written out to “the very rich.” When police warned the crowd to move or face arrest, 15 protestors refused and were arrested. As the police arrested the demonstrators who refused to move, the crowd continued the non-violent protest.
“The tax bill is part of a class war we are caught in with Wall Street corporations,” said Jim Perlstein, a retired professor and an organizer with the PSC, which represents 27,000 current and former CUNY employees. “This bill is an assault on every part of life the union represents. It will devastate the public service sector we represent.”
Sherry Wolf, an organizer with the 8,000-member Rutgers AAUP-AFT commented on the irony of the bill’s passage during the Christmas season: “The rich have launched this attack on the public as a gift to themselves. They are relying on people paying the least amount of attention at this time of year.” The public, especially public-sector unions, must amp up their resistance, she said. “We are under siege and we ought not to stand in paralysis. They want to dismantle public institutions for their private benefit.”
Organizations that participated in the die-in include: Citizen Action New York, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, Greater New York Labor Religion Coalition, Hedge Clippers, New York City Public Advocate’s Office, New York Communities for Change, New York Progressive Action Network, New York State Council of Churches, New York State Nurses Association, North New Jersey DSA, People’s Climate Movement, Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, Radical Age Movement, Rutgers University AAUP-AFT, Strong Economy for All Coalition, Working Families Party.
Here are some scenes from event:
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