A ‘Raindrop’ for Economic Justice
By Michael Kaufman
Bennett Weiss points to the front-page story in the New Canaan News with mixed emotions. Weiss, a longtime Newburgh resident, was organizer of a recent Rally for Economic Justice in New Canaan, a suburban Connecticut burgh that is home to more than a few well-to-do corporate executives and rich celebrities.
“It’s an accurate report,” says Weiss. “Of course I was disappointed in the turnout.” But Weiss adds that the event was “hugely successful” in other ways. “As part of the big picture … it was one raindrop in what I hope is a gathering tsunami.”
According to the New Canaan News article, “Over the weekend, a slew of protests against wealthy corporations and individuals took place on Wall Street. But the financial district was not the only setting for these rallies. New Canaan Town Hall served as another backdrop for around 40 individuals who wanted ‘to protest against the concentration of wealth in the very places where that wealth is concentrated.’”
The Wall Street protests have continued despite being largely ignored by corporate-owned media until recently, when video of an ugly incident of police brutality went viral over the internet. It remains to be seen whether they will grow to “tsunami” or even small flood proportions.
Back in New Canaan, Weiss told a reporter, “We are not here to throw barbs at any particular people. This is to just keep the conversation going and hopefully by having it in New Canaan, we’ll perk up some ears that might have been deaf to this issue for a little too long. As far as particulars about New Canaan, well we have Jeffery Immelt (CEO of General Electric) and a whole lot of other people that we consider part of the problem.”
Immelt and some 6,000+ other readers of the News were provided with the link to the Economic Justice Now website (www.economicjusticenow.org), as well as a quote from the site: “Economic Justice means medical care and jobs for all. It means an end to the gross imbalance of political power between the haves and have-nots. It means ending wars of empire. It means putting people before profit. It means putting our common needs ahead of individual luxury.”
“The protesters gathered on the lawn in front of Town Hall listened to speakers tell stories, recite poetry and even sing a few songs,” the article continued. “Their hope was to raise awareness in New Canaan and solicit assistance from anyone willing to join the cause.”
Speakers included Richard Duffee of the Green Party, who urged attendees to “sign up to create and work with an organization that will advocate equality in Connecticut.”
Ralph Nazareth, an English professor from Nassau Community College, said, “The wolves of double speak, ravenous greed and blind power are not just at the door. They are in the house and they are mauling us. That is why we are here on this beautiful day.”
Trudy Goldberg, of the National Jobs for All Coalition, said the best way to tackle unemployment is for the government to directly create new jobs. “The best and only solution is direct job creation by the federal government modeled on the work programs of the Great Depression,” said Goldberg. “This not only gave jobs to the unemployed but did much to improve the nation’s physical, social and cultural resources.”
Goldberg also spoke of the threat to democracy posed by the influence of money on democratic elections. “The great influence of wealth on our political system subverts political democracy,” she observed. “Money influences how we vote through its very substantial influence on the media. It influences who can run for office and who is likely to win because you know that campaigns are extraordinarily expensive and most of the time, those who have the most money win those campaigns. Then after they are in office, they are influenced and may be beholden to those who have contributed most to them…”
Weiss said those who attended the New Canaan rally share the same goal of those gathering in New York’s financial district. “Right now, as we’re meeting there is a similar meeting down in Wall Street,” he said. “People are demonstrating against the same issues we are demonstrating against but the difference is they are doing it where these people work and we are doing it where these people live.”
Will these efforts amount to more than a drop in the bucket? Weiss and fellow activists in Orange County are doing their part to make it so.
Michael can be reached at Michael@zestoforange.com.