November 20, 2011
By Bendix Anderson
Dozens of workers strode quickly toward Foley Square November 17, carrying signs for “Verizon Workers” and “Communications Workers of America,” and chanting “We Are the 99 Percent!” Their voices echoed from the court buildings on Lower Broadway as they joined protesters already gathered to march across the Brooklyn Bridge in support of Occupy Wall Street.
Dozens of were arrested for sitting down on the bridge’s roadway just before the march, including Mary Kay Henry, International President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and George Gresham, President of 1199 SEIU. An estimated 35,000 to 50,000 joined the demonstration. It took hours for the crowds to clear the bottleneck at the pedestrian entrance of the bridge.
“It’s time for the one percent to pay their fair share, so that the 99 percent can begin to live the American dream,” Gresham said before his arrest.
The police were out in force, including a dozen on horseback and many in visored riot helmets. The event had been planned for weeks as part of the “n17,” demonstrations at 17 bridges across the country to call attention to the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and call for a new highway program. The event gained new urgency after police cleared the tents from the original Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan November 15. Earlier on November 17th, scores of Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested as they attempted to create a human wall around the New York Stock Exchange.
Dozens of labor unions showed their support that evening. Marchers carried signs for labor organizations including the United Auto Workers, the Transport Workers Union and the Professional Staff Congress CUNY, among many others. “The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union will do everything it can to learn from and assist Occupy Wall Street,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the RWDSU.
The Verizon Building loomed overhead as marchers crossed the Bridge. A projection onto the concrete face of the building flashed the words “WE… ARE… THE 99%” in letters of light a dozen feet tall.