Demonstrators are marching on Wall Street today on the third day of a campaign dubbed "Occupy Wall Street," which began on Saturday when thousands gathered in New York City’s Financial District. Inspired by the massive public protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and Madrid’s Puerta del Sol Square, hundreds have slept outside near Wall Street for the past two nights. We play a video report on the protest by Democracy Now!'s Sam Alcoff and get a live update from the streets from Nathan Schneider, editor of the blog "Waging Nonviolence." We also speak with David Graeber, an anthropologist who participated in the activities. "If you look at who showed up [in Egypt and Spain], it was mostly young people, and most of them were people who had gone through the educational system who were deeply in debt and who found it completely impossible to find jobs," says Graeber. "The system has completely failed them ... If there's going to be any kind of society worth living in, we’re going to have to create it ourselves."
AMY GOODMAN: Today President Obama is set to unveil a deficit-reduction plan that includes tax increases as well as cuts to programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. The cuts are meant to reduce government spending by more than $3 trillion over the next decade. The plan also calls for $1.1 trillion in savings from winding down the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. With the United States facing record levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality, Obama’s plan will include higher taxes on the rich.
In his weekly radio and video address Saturday, he talked about his jobs bill and said everyone would need to help reduce the U.S. deficit.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It will create new jobs. It’ll cut taxes for every worker and small business in the country, and it will not add to the deficit. It will be paid for. On Monday, I’ll lay out my plan for how we’ll do that, how we’ll pay for this plan and pay down our debt, by following some basic principles: making sure we live within our means and asking everyone to pay their fair share.
AMY GOODMAN: According to White House officials, the President will announce a new tax rate for people earning more than $1 million a year so they pay at least the same percentage of their earnings in taxes as middle-income Americans. The proposal will be called the Buffett Rule, after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times last month called "Stop Coddling the Super-Rich." Republicans yesterday criticized the idea of a minimum tax rate for millionaires, accusing President Obama of "class warfare."
Meanwhile, over the weekend, the Financial District in New York City was flooded by protesters. Democracy Now!’s Sam Alcoff was there and filed this report.
SAM ALCOFF: On Saturday, thousands of protesters took to the streets of downtown Manhattan for what was described as an action to "Occupy Wall Street." Inspired by the popular uprisings of the Arab Spring and the European anti-austerity movements, Ad Busters, a Vancouver-based culture-jamming magazine, put out a call for Saturday’s protest on Wall Street in July. The goals were various, from limiting corporate contributions to political campaigns, to auditing the Federal Reserve, to challenging all of global capitalism. Protesters included 71-year-old Mary Ellen Marino of Princeton, New Jersey.
MARY ELLEN MARINO: I came because I’m upset with the fact that the bailout of Wall Street didn’t help any of the people holding mortgages. All of the money went to Wall Street, and none of it went to Main Street. Now, we’ve just learned that Geithner was actually asked to split up the Citibank, and he didn’t do it. And Obama didn’t do anything about it.
SAM ALCOFF: The plan wasn’t simply for a one-day protest, but an ongoing and creative occupation of the Financial District itself. Organizer Lorenzo Serna.
LORENZO SERNA: The idea is to have an encampment. Like, this isn’t a one-day event. Like, we’re hoping that people come prepared to stay as long as they can and that we’re there to support each other.
SAM ALCOFF: But on Saturday, after hundreds arrived, the NYPD shut Wall Street down itself, barricading activists off of Wall Street and forcing a move to the nearby Zuccotti Park. Despite sometimes tense standoffs with the police, hundreds slept in the park and have maintained that they will stay until their demands are met. Prominent backers of the effort to occupy Wall Street included comedian Roseanne Barr.
ROSEANNE BARR: These are the people who decimated our economy and caused all the problems in the world, there on Wall Street.
SAM ALCOFF: Like many others, Marino says she took to the streets because of how the financial crisis has devastated her own family.
MARY ELLEN MARINO: My particular interest is not this big picture, but it’s the little picture. I have two daughters. Both of them have Citibank mortgages. And during this two-year period, when they were supposed to be helping people that were in danger of foreclosure, they did not refinance these mortgages, either one of my children, and one of the children at a house that was then worth half of its original value. She had put down a $45,000 down payment to buy this condominium, and it was worth half of what she paid for it. And so, when she lost her job for the second time during this crisis, she had to abandon the house. She’s now without a house, without a job. My other daughter and her husband are struggling very much to maintain their mortgage. And I’ve had to go back to work. I’m going to be 72 in October, and I’ve had to go back to work full-time in order to help my children.
AMY GOODMAN: That report by Democracy Now!'s Sam Alcoff. Special thanks to Democracy Now!'s Ryan Devereaux, Deena Guzder and Jon Gerberg, all on the Democracy Now! team covering the Occupy Wall Street protest.
We’re going to go right now live to the protests. We’re joined on the phone by Nathan Schneider, editor at the website "Waging Nonviolence," joining us several blocks from Wall Street.
Nathan, what’s happening as we broadcast now?
NATHAN SCHNEIDER: Actually, the protest is currently on Wall Street, coming up to the corner of William Street. There are probably a couple hundred people marching along the sidewalk behind police barricades, and they’ve been going up and down Broad for a few minutes, and now they’ve been led down Wall Street.
AMY GOODMAN: And their demands? And their demands, Nathan?
NATHAN SCHNEIDER: The demands have not been articulated in any concrete way. They’re carrying signs saying "Wall Street is our street," "Hungry, eat a banker," "Smash capitalism." It’s a broad range of demands and slogans. But the general idea is that they’re fed up with what Wall Street has represented in this country, and they want a change.
AMY GOODMAN: And the police presence right now, already it’s intense throughout the city with the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama in town today. What about Wall Street now with the protesters?
NATHAN SCHNEIDER: The police presence has been strong, though mainly out of sight. During the night, the last couple of nights, there have been maybe 20, 25 police visible from the park where they’ve been sleeping. But there are police all around. And it’s clear that, if necessary, they could mobilize a large number at any time.
AMY GOODMAN: You slept overnight with the protesters in the park just above Wall Street. How many people were there? And what are they chanting as you’re talking to us now, Nathan?
NATHAN SCHNEIDER: The chants that they keep coming back to during these marches in the last few days is "All day, all week, occupy Wall Street." I’d say about—maybe between 100 and 200 spent the night last night—it can be hard to tell sometimes—in sleeping bags, on newspaper, on cardboard. No tents.
AMY GOODMAN: Nathan, thanks for being with us. We’re going to be checking back with you through the day. Nathan Schneider, editor of the website "Waging Nonviolence." When we come back from break, we’ll be joined by Dave Graeber, one of the people involved with this mass protest on Wall Street, author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Stay with us.