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Taking It To The Streets March 28, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Economy, European Union, G20, National Politics, Politics, Unions, Women's Issues.
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g201Tens of thousands of people representing trade unions, charities, environmental groups and churches marched on London today in advance of the G20 summit this week.  The protesters –  estimated at about 35,000 – are demanding jobs, economic justice, punishment for the bankers that caused the world economic meltdown, and protection for the environment.  Similar protests were held in Berlin and Paris.  The London protest takes place against the backdrop of a deepening global recession and growing public anger over bankers’ pay and the painful fallout from the crisis. The marchers are pushing for a more transparent and democratic economic recovery plan.

Though some anarchist groups are threatening violence, the marches so far have been peaceful – yet raucous.  Much of the protestors’ anger has been aimed at the United States; since Wall Street is the dominant world exchange, failures and excesses on Wall Street are viewed as the problem.  US Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday asked the thousands of protesters to give governments a chance to tackle the economic crisis.  “I would hope that the protesters give us a chance, listen to what we have to say and hopefully we can make it clear to them that we’re going to walk away from this G20 meeting with some concrete proposals,” Biden said at a news conference after a meeting of center-left politicians in Chile.  Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero added that  deep financial reforms were vital to avert a another financial meltdown.  “We have to democratize the economy, globalization and the financial system. How to do this? We already know: with information, transparency and responsibility,” Zapatero said.

This is why I am so fond of the European community.  They get out in the streets, they carry signs, they agitate for change and reforms.  The closest we’ve been to a populist rebellion since the 1999 Seattle WTO protests is getting pissed off over the AIG bonuses last week.  Even then, there was no large-scale organized protest.  We just had a bunch of really angry people calling radio talk shows and Twittering Rick Sanchez at CNN. 


Why don’t Americans take to the streets?  The protest march is one of the foundations of Democracy – the people making sure their voices are heard.  Are we just too lazy?  Are we too tired?  What is bad enough to make us give a shit?  

I think Americans don’t protest because we’re afraid.  We’re afraid that if we take a couple days off to march on Washington we’ll lose our jobs.  We’re afraid that our bosses might spot us in the crowd on the evening news and we’ll lose our jobs.  We’re afraid that if we express an opinion different from that of our company, we’ll lose our jobs.  Too much of our life’s security is dependent upon our jobs in America.  Lose your job, lose your health insurance – and getting sick will surely send you to the poorhouse.  Lose your job, lose your house – and hope you have a car you can live in because our public housing and shelters are totally inadequate.  Lose your job, lose your car – and not only will you not have a place to crash, you won’t be able to get around to look for a job because our public transit systems suck.  Our fear controls every aspect of our lives – especially our economic decisions.

In European Social Democracies, people can protest because they have a safety net provided by their governments as their birthright.  THAT’S the issue we Americans need to take to the streets.



1. wolfman1 - March 28, 2009

What the hell happened in the late ’90’s? Now,the only way to live is to go into debt to do it. It has actually become normal to look at part of your paycheque as the part that goes to pay for something that you have already used.

There are too many peope, believing that they won’t be affected by the World as long as they keep working, keep their head down,and keep quiet. We need more people like you. Keep it up!

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