Quickly adapting to the new international emergency and need for solidarity with the Haitian people, the Bail Out the People Movement made the necessary last-minute adjustments to their Jan. 15 Martin Luther King Jr. birthday protest on Wall Street. BOPM demanded that the tens of billions of dollars the Wall Street banks earmarked for bonuses to their executives be used instead to rebuild Haiti’s infrastructure.
WW photo: John Catalinotto
The speakers showed their anger at the centuries of oppression against the heroic Haitian people. They made it clear that these aid funds should not be considered charity, because Wall Street owes this money as reparations to the Haitians for the history of theft of their unpaid labor.
New York City Councilperson Charles Barron noted that President Barack Obama has pledged only a $100 million aid package for Haiti: “There are 2 million people in Port-au-Prince. That’s $50 a person. Israel gets $3 billion [a year] to fight a war in the Middle East, and only $100 million to Haiti? That’s unacceptable.”
BOPM, a coalition of community, immigrant, labor and political organizations in the New York metropolitan area, had planned the Wall Street action over the past month to raise the main issues in its program: creating jobs or providing income for the nearly 30 million unemployed and underemployed workers, stopping foreclosures on people’s homes and guaranteeing food and health care for everyone.
The blatant contradiction that bank executives are receiving bonuses when their profits depend on the greatest government bailout in history fueled the sentiments at the protest. BOPM also calls attention to the vast sums used for U.S. wars of occupation in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere while so little goes to working people here.
The emergency facing Haiti’s poor following the earthquake made that issue the major priority for BOPM’s protest. Other related issues also came to the front burner in the past month as city and state funds in New York were cut from important programs. When the Metropolitan Transit Authority threatened to cut the free passes for students, this became an issue hitting every youth who uses public transportation to get to school and back.
To protest this cut in the subway and bus passes, about 20 students from the Young Women’s Leadership School, a high school in East Harlem of more than 400 students in grades 7-12, came to the Wall Street protest. From the podium, they explained why this seemingly small daily cut was a frontal attack on their right to a public education. Their participation showed how the outrageous cutbacks now underway can spark struggle in the hearts of the next generation of activists.
For more information see bailoutpeople.org.
Articles copyright 1995-2010 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.