Update: Our good friend Pamela Hall has more photo and video coverage of the event on her fantastic website, The Silent Majority No More. I highly recommend checking it out for yourself.
The police presence at the anti-voter verification rally that took place in Manhattan this weekend was pretty substantial, although it still wasn’t quite as large as the security perimeter established around the diminished Occupy Wall Street protests at Zuccotti Park. In addition to the NYPD officers, there were also a series of minders brought in by the SEIU and other unions to corral unscripted protesters.
Not that there were that many unscripted messages being presented. The overriding theme seemed to be a manichaean vision that voting rights were under assault by a ruthless cabal of Koch brother-bankrolled institutions and Republican elected officials intent on disenfranchising minorities. The biblical analogy seen below was not anomalous in this regard.
Opposition against more stringent requirements of voters-who in New York are merely required to sign their names to the voting rolls in order to cast a ballot-was the central theme of this demonstration. The laws being denounced ranged from a constitutional amendment in Mississippi that would require the production of a photo ID at the polls, to LD 1376, an overturned Maine law that prohibited same day voter registration and casting absentee ballots two days prior to the election.
There were a few demonstrators with American flags…very few.
The second-largest contingent of protesters, aside from those bussed in by the NAACP, was comprised of various labor unions from New York State and the surrounding Tri-State Area.
One of the more popular signs focused on the living wage bill being debated by the New York City Council that would mandate a higher pay scale for workers on projects subsidized by the City, although the actual impact of the proposed law is subject to intense dispute.
The chief sponsor of the march was the health workers local of the Service Employees International Union, which spent 28 million dollars in 2008 in order to elect Barack Obama to the presidency and will probably spend even more on the President’s reelection.
One of the largest unions in the country, and another huge funder and bloc of votes of President Obama, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees-part of the AFL-CIO-was also there in force.
Even a North American union had a few supporters among the crowd.
I’m not sure what conceivable interest ham radio operators have in the administation of U.S. election law, but they were in attendance as well.
The Civil Service Employees Association, a New York based local of AFSCME which wields enormous influence on state politics, was also a participant in the march to the United Nations.
As was the Professional Staff Congress, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers which represents staff at the City University Of New York. Like most of its counterparts at the rally, the PSC was part of the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti.
The fact that organized labor is becoming synonymous with public sector workers was reflected in the composition of the protest march. In addition AFSCME and the PSC, the Organization of Staff Analysts, which represents workers employed by New York City, was also present.
The Jewish Labor Committee, a secular, left wing 501(c)3 that coordinates with Big Labor, also had representatives participating in the anti-Koch march.
Interestingly enough, there was also an environmental activist group fighting against natural gas development and harnassing natural resources for domestic energy consumption. While it might seem strange to see a group created by radical environmentalist and anti-industrialist Bill McKibben yoking itself to a union-heavy demonstration, apparently there is a history behind this alliance. The inherent tension between backers of projects like the Keystone Pipeline and vociferous opponents of any American energy development has been noted by others.
There were also anti-war groups pounding the pavement. Although there was no ostensible link between the themes of the march and their cause, I have yet to see a demonstration in the past decade in which they did not participate, regardless of the cause being promoted.
Those from the Occupy Wall Street movement were perhaps more in sync with the motivations of the organizers, trumpeting the theme of wealth redistribution and denouncing the Koch brothers for assorted political and philanthropic activities they took issue with.
The anti-capitalist message was a popular one.
Including yet another denunciation of Citizens United, a Supreme Court decision that struck down unconstitutional speech restrictions placed upon labor unions, corporations, and political activists by McCain-Feingold. This is a theme that has particular resonance in liberal quarters, as this piece in Slate by Dahlia Lithwick illustrates.
The protestors did not stint on their enmity, which was almost universally directed at Republicans and those perceived to be helping the GOP, including the libertarian Koch brothers.
Notwithstanding the OWS contingent, the sectarian and radical nature of some of the organizations included in the roster of participants was hard to deny. The Peoples Organization for Progess, a Newark-based group that supports reparations extracted from white Americans to atone for slavery, rigid racial quotas, and confiscatory tax rates-and has been supportive of former Democratic congresswoman and Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney-had a sizable contingent taking part in the demonstration.
It’s difficult to see how “ending racism” and discriminating against racial groups different from your own can be logically reconciled, but I’m sure they’ll figure it out.
The Party of Socialism and Liberation-see if you can spot the oxymoron in that phrase-which is an offshoot of the Worker’s World Party did nothing to add to the luster of this march’s presentation.
Of course, The Militant-a publication of the Socialist Workers Party-was frequently on display.
Local socialist organizations, such as the new left Citizen Action of New York were also there.
On the other hand, this was priceless:
Unfortunately, the graybeard did not seem to recognize the cognitive dissonance inherent in attending a voting rights rally wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the image of someone not exactly known for his love of participatory democracy or election rules. Then again, who needs free elections when you can choose between socialism or being killed?
Who knew that Muncie, Indiana’s favorite orange, cartoon tabby was a liberal?
And what would a left wing march in New York City be without percussion instruments?
One of the benefits of going to these sorts of events is that you meet interesting characters. Like this fellow here, who apparently couldn’t locate his 2011 New Year’s novelty glasses in time for the demonstration.
I’m not quite certain what the purpose of the horns are, other than to display more buttons. Personally, my favorite is the Moms Mabley button, although I’m not sure what possible relevance it has to the Koch brothers or state election statutes.
As the march was getting under way it came in sight of this amiable fellow, a restaurant worker who decided to make his own political statement with which I will conclude this photo-essay. Pepe the Bull is for the People! At least, that’s the portion of the hand-scrawled sign that I could make out-those of you who can come up with a better translation are free to provide it in the comments section below. Whatever the significance, it made just as much sense as the Garfield button-plus, he should be given points for his improvisational ability.