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Truthdiggers of the Week: The May Day Occupiers

Posted on May 4, 2012
AP/Mary Altaffer

Police officers on scooters try to push protesters back onto the sidewalk during an unpermitted march in New York City.

Every week, Truthdig recognizes an individual or group of people who spoke truth to power, blew the whistle or stood up in the face of injustice. See past winners here, and nominate the next awardee here.

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There were doubts about whether Occupy Wall Street could pull off the massive day of protest its organizers spent many months planning. But demonstrators in New York City and elsewhere joined forces with labor unions and immigrant-rights activists to remind the public that there is a working class and May 1 is its holiday.

They did so in spite of opposition from various corners. For example, just over one year ago, Gov. Paul LePage of Maine ordered the removal of a 36-foot-wide mural at the Department of Labor building in Augusta depicting the history of the state’s laboring class. A spokesman for LePage, a Republican, said the mural had offended some business owners, that it was “one-sided” and not in keeping with the labor department’s pro-business goals. It was removed and placed in storage until a more “appropriate venue” for the work could be found.

Opposition elsewhere has been more insidious. Instead of offering a nod to workers this May Day, the White House proclaimed May 1 “Loyalty Day”—an occasion to remember American citizens’ debts to the protective vision of the U.S. Constitution and those who struggled to defend it. “Loyalty Day” appears to be no different from Independence Day, but rather just a slightly different repackaging of the same bland appeal to patriotism that has become the hallmark of campaign seasons and seems more intended to instruct Americans to bracket whatever grievances they have and be happy with their country.

The Americans who filled the nation’s streets and squares on May Day know better. They know corporations own the legislative process. They know there is no meaningful difference between a vote for Goldman Sachs candidate A and Goldman Sachs candidate B. Even if they don’t agree on the particulars of the problem or any singular solution, they grasp that something is wrong with America, and they have shown time and again that they are willing to risk their bodies in confrontations with police and give up the respect of their fellow Americans, many of whom misunderstand their efforts and are to eager to insult them.


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With those sacrifices in mind, we select the May Day Occupiers as our Truthdiggers of the Week. We’ll leave the final honors for those protesters to President Obama, who should have written the following words from his “Loyalty Day” dedication for them:

In the years since our Constitution was penned and ratified, Americans have moved our Nation forward by embracing a commitment to each other, to the fundamental principles that unite us, and to the future we share. We weathered the storms of civil war and segregation, of conflicts that spanned continents. We overcame threats from within and without—from the specter of fascism abroad to the bitter injustice of disenfranchisement at home. We upheld the spirit of service at the core of our democracy, and we widened the circle of opportunity not just for a privileged few, but for the ambitious many. Time and again, men and women achieved what seemed impossible by joining imagination to common purpose and necessity to courage. That legacy still burns brightly, and the ideals it embodies remain a light to all the world.

—Alexander Reed Kelly

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By heterochromatic, May 5, 2012 at 7:20 pm Link to this comment

LOREN—- actually the demo was expected to be a real flop, but the union
participation resulted in a respectable turnout.

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By gerard, May 5, 2012 at 6:23 pm Link to this comment

From the April 30 Daily Beast:
  “The iconic writer scolds the superrich (including himself—and Mitt Romney) for not giving back, and warns of a Kingsian apocalyptic scenario if inequality is not addressed in America.”
  And who is this “iconic writer”? Stephen King. More than a year ago Ralph Nader wrote a “novel” proposing a creative plan to enlist the efforts of a handful of super-rich guys to take initiative in turning things around somewhat. So the idea has occurred to some people and has floated up to the higher echelons.  What’s the problem?
  Not that they could play Gods and save us; just that somebody has to wade into the inequity problem and stick their neck out far enough to start some serious thinking about how to even things up and stop buying politicians and punishing ordinary people for not having jobs or money in the bank—and do it without riling the tender sensitivities
of the rabid right-wing ingrates who think poor people don’t “deserve” to have access to food, clothing, shelter, education and health care, while it’s okay to bomb the hell out of several Middle Eastern countries and taser college students just for the heck of it.
  “From those to whom much has been given, much is expected.”  Or words to that effect.

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By heterochromatic, May 5, 2012 at 5:22 pm Link to this comment

Comrade, you are stimulating discussion and it’s your
good fortune to be able to do so…..

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By Ed Romano, May 5, 2012 at 4:21 pm Link to this comment

Comrade Het, No, just as I would not expect them to admit that their good fortune is bought at the price of misery for others. People like to be able to sleep well at night, They do this by telling themselves they are the salt of the earth. But I have a little bit of a discussion going here haven’t I ? The fact is that, with rare exceptions, most human beings aren’t worth the powder it takes to blow them to hell.

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By heterochromatic, May 5, 2012 at 3:41 pm Link to this comment

Comrade Ed—- do you really know any wealthy people who have expressed to you
their delight in knowing that others are cold, hungry and in misery?

Is it true? Are the wealthy all Trump-sized asses?

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proletariatprincess's avatar

By proletariatprincess, May 5, 2012 at 2:52 pm Link to this comment

Your point is well taken, Brother Romano, and I am sure that what you say is true in many instances.  But I also believe that many wealthy people just don’t consider the working or middle classes at all except to fear that they will be required to share with those whom they consider less deserving than themselves.  The fact that the wealthy have acquired more than their own fair share because they occupy a priveleged position in society, is never even contemplated.  They have convinced themselves that they worked hard for their money and they deserve it.  Fairness and the plight of others never even enters into their thinking.

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By chuckwagoncharlie, May 5, 2012 at 2:29 pm Link to this comment

My old Accounting Professor always said wages should be tied to profits and I would also say the retirement plans should be tied to a Universal Retirement plan so the worker would not get the shaft before he/she can retire.
We are a long way from an ideal situation for labor and capital in the greed process world wide regardless of the -ISM controlling the Money supply.

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By Ed Romano, May 5, 2012 at 1:25 pm Link to this comment

Good Afternoon Comrades, Many posters in these forums are concerned about the inequitable tax system in the U.S. and the alarming and growing poverty of its citizens. Many believe this is the product of an outmoded economic system, and I agree that this is a root cause. But I would like to propose an idea that may be more primal and goes beyond the greed of capitalists in helping us understand the opposition we encounter whenever proposals are made to alleviate poverty.
  History shows us that there is an age old struggle on the part of the rich and the rest of us to use the treasury of the government for what we consider our own needs. Since the rich have always been more influential, because of their wealth, in purchasing the influence of politicians, they have benefited from govenment programs, such as subsidies and tax breaks, to enrich themselves with the rest of us footing the bill. But isn’t it possible that the rich require millions of others to be poor in order to enhance their own illusions of superiority? Isn’t lying on the beach in Aruba in January made more pleasurable by the thought of millions of folks freezing their asses off in Chicago and North Dakota ? If all people had a standard of living that was decent and allowed them to live less desperate lives, wouldn’t they be less likely to envy the rich…..and isn’t the contemplation of
being envied part of the attraction of being rich? This Veblenish idea, of course, would make human beings out to be less than the benevolent creatures we like to think of ourselves as. But is it possible this is a reason why we encounter so much viseral resistance to the idea of alleviating poverty ?....What does all this have to do with a debate about ways to alleviate poverty? Just this. When we are discussing alleviation, in economic terms, are the very rich translating what they hear into terms more psychologically important to them ? After all, they already have more money than they need….why else would they begrudge an extra bowl of soup on a poor person’s table ?

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By foulmouthgandhi, May 5, 2012 at 12:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We at neworldorgasm went in support of both the unions and OWS. We went to get
interviews with people, interviews the mainstream media was not covering. Instead
any news of May Day, that we combed for,  was brief & did not reflect the many
Orgs, voices and issues that Americans are concerned about. Like transparency of
gov’t, closing corp. tax loopholes, medicare for all, right to collective bargaining,
sensible drug policies, and many more issues.

Please take a look at what we witnessed and recorded at Union Square on May 1,
2012 the May Day General Strike & Occupy Wall St. March.

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By LOREN KALLWICK, May 5, 2012 at 12:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The fact that the demonstrations were basically a flop
seems to be overlooked by many here at TruthDiggers.
What has been noticed is the blatant disregard for and
destruction of other peoples property. Personal Freedom
and Property Rights are a linchpin of this nations
founding. Occupiers are in favor of the opposite.
Hopefully the Occupiers and other leftists light will
shine bright for as long as a burnt out lightbulb does.

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By heterochromatic, May 5, 2012 at 7:55 am Link to this comment

In NYC, there was a turnout of thousands, but most of the folks were marching as
supporters of the labor unions and few at all didn’t go to work and were part of
any General Strike.

OWS was much more work to do in organizing support .....

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By Norecovery, May 4, 2012 at 10:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I hope the tide is turning. I joined the march in my city. The Hispanics really came out in force but I was disappointed by what appeared to be a low turnout of white people.

As long as Americans are addicted to their TV & sports & entertainment, automobiles & energy consumption, fast food, and consumer lifestyle, they will be beholden to the PTB. Notice that Walmart is doing just fine with low-income customers, and workers’ wages continue to be suppressed.

Our civilization is entirely dependent on the availability of cheap energy, the deferment of external costs (i.e. global warming), and continued population and economic growth. We know these are not sustainable, so something has to give and that point is fast approaching.

We must face the fact that great suffering lies ahead, and it sure won’t be the 1% or their shills. The more we protest, the greater the forces will be amassed against us. This is an epic battle, but it won’t be won merely by marching in the streets or political activism. It will require a fundamental change in everybody’s lifestyle and thinking. Many of us have advocated this starting in the 1960’s, but it fell upon deaf ears then as it does now.

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By RecoveringCatholic, May 4, 2012 at 10:38 pm Link to this comment

Occupy when it meets should hold a Constitutional Convention, create an alternative government, and run that government as if it was real.  With the point of eventually having the new government take over.

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By proletariatprincess, May 4, 2012 at 6:50 pm Link to this comment

Be of good cheer, USAmerican working classes.  We have taken back International Workers Day.  It was taken from us years ago and this year we took it back.  Obama and the pols and bosses can call it anything they want, but it is still May Day and we the working people of the world own it.  Let’s not underestimate what has happened here.  Some people stayed home from work or school.  Some didnt shop or spend money, but whatever action or non action that was taken on May 1st was a shot accross the bow of the oppressive ship of state and it’s corporate masters.  Next year it will be even more signifigant and the year after that more so.  This is the beginning of the beginning and no one is giving up.  There is much to do and much to undo in this country and our young people will be up to the long hard task.  Solildarity Forever, Fellow Workers!

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By gerard, May 4, 2012 at 5:32 pm Link to this comment

The words above express a pretty set of lies we would all like to believe but are increasingly convinced are not true.  In fact, less true every day, and to swear allegiance to lies is a devilish business.
  Regarding honoring our Constitution, as time goes by it is less honored every day. Habeas corpus was “disappeared” deliberately, rights are far from equal, people who tell the truth are put in jail and liars grow fat and happy. You and I can be tasered for less than a nickel’s worth of protest, or shot for not being a certain skin color.
  While some Americans have been working hard to preserve democratic values and processes, others have been working overtime to destroy both liberty and law while tens of thousands of their fellow-citizens are suffering abuse in prisons that are a shame to any civilized justice system. Many of our children don’t have enough to eat or a roof over their heads.
  Conflicts have certainly spanned continents, but we have neither overcome “the specter of fascism” nor eliminatd problems of disenfranchisement here.
Circles of opportunity turn increasingly in the direction of the privileged few and the spirit of service has been displaced by the spirit of suspicion and get-even. Many of us fear the future
and each other, and succumb willingly to intrusive survillance. Torture has been legalized.
  Now we are faced, truly, with the patriotic necessity—and the opportunity—to face our errors, renounce them and turn together toward a common purpose and a renewal of courage, respect and liberty. While it is true that “the legacy (of democracy) still burns brightly” in our memories, the ideals of peace abd justice, once strongly alive here, are overdue for a deliberate and peaceful resurrection. 
  Militarily speaking, we have allowed our nation to become the scourge of the world, and that urge for mass destruction absolutely must be controlled and redirected toward the morals of peace and understanding if we are to again become any “light of the world.”
  Truth is truth.

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