Persistent criticism of Occupy Wall Street for failing to specify demands has helped obscure the fact that groups of people within the movement have been mobilizing around concrete political goals.
The latest example is a small group of occupiers who will set out tomorrow on a 230-mile march from New York to Washington, where they plan to arrive on the eve of the deadline of the congressional supercommittee.
The marchers’ message to the supercommittee: cut the Bush tax cuts on the rich in order to help balance the budget and save badly needed social programs. (Those tax cuts were extended by President Obama and Congress after a fight last year.)
“If there’s a message, it’s that we’re paying attention now,” says Michael Glazer, 26, one of the march organizers.
Glazer is an unemployed actor from Chicago who has been sleeping in Zuccotti Park, the center of the Occupy Wall Street movement, for a month. He and fellow occupier Kelley Brannon organized the march. It is expected to take two weeks to complete the trip.
“You’re going to be cutting money out of programs that help middle America, yet you’re not going to try to tax the wealthy, the 1 percent, at all,” Glazer says of the supercommittee.
Remember, the supercommittee has been tasked with finding a plan to cut $1.2 trillion from the deficit by Nov. 23, which would then go to an up-or-down vote in Congress. Lawmakers are increasingly predicting that the supercommittee will fail. If it does fail, automatic cuts in military and social spending will be triggered — but there are potential ways around those triggered cuts.
Twelve marchers are set to leave Zuccotti Park Wednesday at noon; they plan a 20-mile-per-day pace that would have them arriving in Washington on Nov. 22. They will then link up with Occupy DC. Organizers are still crafting what sort of protest actions will happen in Washington. Here is the official flier for the “Occupy the Highway” march:
There has been an outpouring of support and interest in the last few days since the plan became public, says Jason Coniglione, another New York occupier who is part of the core group of marchers. Coniglione, 24, has been unemployed since August and has been sleeping at Zuccotti Park and has also spent time at Occupy New Orleans. He says people at other Occupy sites along the route plan to join the group, if only for a day or two.
Marchers plan to hold assemblies each night. “We want to bring the Occupy movement to a whole new audience,” says Coniglione.
On Sunday, the general assembly at Zuccotti Park — the main governing body of Occupy in New York — issued a $3,000 grant to the marchers to pay for supplies and other costs. A Twitter account has been set up to provide updates from the road.