Prominent groups within organized labor immediately leapt to the defense of Occupy Wall Street Tuesday, following the overnight police raid which evicted protesters from Zuccotti Park in New York and subsequent court battle which effectively ended the ability of demonstrators to camp in the park.
Meanwhile, Occupy Wall Street organizers hope to strike back by using a demonstration planned for Thursday to make a huge statement about the power of the embattled movement.
Capping off a tumultuous Tuesday, protesters returned to Zuccotti Park without the camping gear and other equipment which is now banned from the park.
The General Executive Board of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday supporting the right of protesters at Occupy Wall Street to assemble at Zuccotti Park. The Teamsters further commended New York Supreme Court Judge Lucy Billings for issuing a restraining order restoring protesters’ constitutional rights. Billings’ ruling was later overturned, however.
“You can draw a direct line from the Wisconsin protests in the winter to Occupy Wall Street to the overwhelming rejection of an anti-union ballot question in Ohio,” says Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “Occupy Wall Street is bringing new energy to a fight that labor has been engaged in from the beginning: The fight for an economy that works for everybody, not just the 1 percent.”
Hoffa notes that rank-and-file Teamsters have participated in Occupy Wall Street actions throughout the country. Teamsters protected encampments in San Francisco and New York, fed Occupy Oakland, led rallies in Cleveland and Chicago, marched in Occupy Chattanooga and supported the movement from Maine to California, he says.
Occupy Wall Street protesters have taken direct action against the Sotheby’s auction house for locking out 43 Teamsters art handlers in New York, while Occupy Chicago protesters rallied against private-equity firm Madison Dearborn in Chicago.
Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO labor organization, also defended Occupy protesters, saying that city officials “can take away the tarps and the tents. But they can’t slow down the Occupy Wall Street movement.”
“The Occupy Wall Street movement has been committed to peaceful, nonviolent action from its inception. And it will keep spreading no matter what elected officials tell police to do. But that doesn’t mean these raids are acceptable. In fact, they are inexcusable,” Trumka adds.
“As former Secretary of State Colin Powell put it, these protests are ‘as American as apple pie,’” Trumka says. “Americans must be allowed to speak out against pervasive inequality, even if the truth discomfits the 1%. The AFL-CIO will do everything in our power to make sure the free speech rights of these peaceful protesters are protected.”
Trumka’s AFL-CIO organization also urged supporters to get involved in national demonstrations Thursday planned to support Occupy’s “Shut Down Wall Street” protest.
Of Thursday’s protest, Occupy Wall Street posted on Wednesday: “24 hours from now we will be on Wall Street and will have the [New York Stock Exchange] surrounded.”
Occupy organizers say that they expect “thousands more” demonstrators to arrive for Thursday’s protest.
“We need you here with us in NYC,” protest organizers say. “This is a crucial moment, please show solidarity by coming to the empire. Imagine what tens of thousands of people in the streets around Wall Street looks like. Now help make it happen.”
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.