Protesters did not so much occupy the Bayside Long Island Rail Road station as they did temporarily appropriate its space last Thursday when they held up signs and handed out leaflets urging morning commuters to take part in and support financial reforms.
Occupy Bayside, similar to its Wall Street correlative, incorporated a number of progressive ideas, but unlike the protest in Zuccotti Park, the handful of demonstrators who braved the damp weather were organized by a group with a defined political agenda.
“We’re supportive of Occupy Wall Street,” said Elaine Calos of moveon.org’s northeast Queens council. “We’re for the idea of making the rich pay their fair share and the principles of the Rebuilding the American Dream Contract.
The number of police officers actually outnumbered the demonstrators. A representative from the 111th Precinct said police were prepared in the event the demonstrators became unruly, which they did not.
Moveon.org is a progressive public policy advocacy group and its contract outlines 10 steps the group believes are necessary to rebuilding the economy. They include investing in infrastructure, green energy jobs and public education, expanding Medicare and strengthening Social Security, ending the Bush tax cuts and instituting a millionaire’s tax, ending foreign wars and labor and campaign finance reforms.
Calos, who is retired, said she and other Bayside members of the group had participated in the Wall Street protests and hoped the movement would motivate a younger generation to take part in political discourse.
“Most of us are retired. I think it’s because we have the time and a lot of us come from the tradition of the ’60s civil rights movement. We’re used to getting out there and marching,” she said.
Tom Hagan held up a sign that read, “This is what scares Wall Street,” with several credit cards cut in half. The reverse side urged people to take their savings out of Chase, Bank of America, Citibank and Wells Fargo accounts and place them in smaller banks or credit unions.
Calos and Hagan both criticized the mainstream media for either under-reporting or spinning the financial crisis.
“The Republican debates get so much coverage, the other side doesn’t get a lot of attention,” said Calos.
Another principle of moveon.org’s contract is a Wall Street speculation tax. After the morning protest, demonstrators traveled to U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman’s (D-Bayside) office, delivering a letter urging the legislator to support the Let Wall Street Pay for the Restoration of Main Street Act.
The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) in 2009, calls for taxes of 0.25 percent on stock trades and 0.02-percent on futures, options and credit default swaps, the revenues from which would be put toward deficit reduction and infrastructure investment.
Ackerman said the bill had not been reintroduced in the current Congress and added that although the protestor’s messages were diverse, he understood their frustrations.
“I’m impressed by their staying power,” he said of the Occupy Wall Streeters. “It says a lot about the state of demonstration in our democracy.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@
©2011 Community News Group
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