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Occupy D.C. offers many grievances, still in search of unified theme

MahurinEcon_Thumb1_1890.jpg
MahurinEcon_Thumb1_1890.jpg

A potpourri of libertarians, anti-war protests, opponents of the Federal Reserve, combat veterans and labor groups descended onto Freedom Square today in the nation’s capital as part of the ongoing public demonstration occurring in the wake of the three-week long Occupy Wall Street event in New York City.

A stage was set up at the D.C. park with a large-scaled reprint of “We The People” — the first words of the U.S. Constitution — hanging in the background. If that appears vague, the entertainment did little to showcase a cohesive narrative.

David Rovics, a progressive folk musician popular on the protest circuit performed, singing a song that included the lyrics, “This world was made for all us and we’re gonna change the scene.”

Slam poets and hip-hop acts inveighed against police brutality and corporate greed, with one shouting on stage, “America loves to kill…[you] cannot get away from the kill in America.” A chorus of older women calling themselves the Raging Grannies were also on hand.

In the audience, however, were hundreds of protestors with specific bones to pick, and their animus was aimed at institutions beyond Wall Street.

Sheri Morgan, a nurse from Greencastle, P.A., held up a sign calling for higher taxes on the wealthy. She said she came to demand a single-payer healthcare system and more progressive taxation. “Small and large corporations need to pay their fair share,” Morgan said. “Tax attorneys are working hard to keep these people from paying the taxes they owe.”

Labor groups the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters joined the rally. Leslie Miller, a communications coordinator for the Teamsters, said the need for change is simple math and that corporations are not paying their fair share. “Social programs get cut because tax revenues dip, and then workers lose their jobs,” she said.

“Corporations are not creating jobs. They’re sitting on profits,” Miller added. She listed a slew of grievances, from the median wage in 2009 to firms forcing workers to forfeit collective bargaining right and pensions. “This is sadly becoming more and more typical,” Miller said.

Patrick McGann, a member of the Selected Marine Corps Reserve who was activated in Afghanistan in 2009-10, came out because he objects to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. “We don’t need to spend trillions of dollars on foreign wars,” he said. “Past empires fell because they expanded too far and failed to address their domestic problems.”

McGann added his unhappiness with the amount of time that passed before the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” “Someone’s gay? I don’t care,” he said. “They bleed the same color I do, and I’m in the infantry.”

Critics of the event were also present. At a nearby Starbucks, a Republican lobbyist said: “I don’t even know what they’re protesting over there. Government regulation just encourages corporations to pass the extra costs onto the consumer. I’m not going to pay $10 for tube socks to protest how WalMart does its business.”

Protesters’ criticism of the tax system channels previous exposés on what they call ‘corporate welfare.’ The Nation reported in March that two-thirds of U.S. corporations do not pay federal taxes, which excludes payroll, state, and other levies. In August, The Institute for Policy Studies released a report titled, “The Massive CEO Rewards for Tax Dodging.” While the New York Times ran with the report, Felix Salmon of Reuters took issue with the study’s research methodology.

Correction: This article previously stated Patrick McGann was an active duty Marine. Rather, McGann is a member of the Selected Marine Corps Reserve, not active duty. We regret the error.

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