America’s most notorious political group — the long-term unemployed “99ers” — gathered today to take on Wall Street.
The rally was something of a letdown.
For one thing, there were nearly as many journalists attending the rally as there were protestors — and the 30-or-so protestors included union promoters and a few college-aged sympathizers. Second, the 99ers forgot to register for a sound permit, and after about 10 minutes were ordered to put away the microphone.
See highlights from the rally >
But the real problem was lack of a clear political message. One speaker thought Obama held the keys: “I want you, President Obama — are you listening? I know your press secretary is! — to sign an executive order today to fix the problem.” What the executive order would say was less clear.
A few Wall Street guys walking by made snide comments: “Get a fucking job!” and “Bunch of socialists.” But the rally never got heated, except at one point when a teamster got in an argument with a anti-free trade activist.
On the other side of the George Washington statue, two young stockbrokers stood watching the rally. One said he felt sympathy for the 99ers, seeing as his father recently went 60 weeks without finding a job. The other said he did not: “When it’s been 99 weeks — a year and a half — you need to get off your arse and find a fucking job.”
Only the tourists were really impressed. Yvonne Chiu, on visit with her daughter and husband from Hong Kong, said she had seen rallies against the government before but never this big. That has a lot to do with repression in China — but Chiu thought it was really a symptom of tax policy: “In Hong Kong the tax is low and people do not expect many benefits. But here they pay so much they want benefits.”
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