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Fix the city, create jobs: Occupy Boston marches for Day of Action

Posted by Alex Pearlman  November 18, 2011 09:15 AM

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DSCN1728.JPGBy Vanessa Formato

Yesterday evening, amidst a steady drizzle and Bruins game traffic, hundreds of Occupy Boston supporters came out in full force to march for the Day of Action, an event marking the Occupy movement’s two-month anniversary. Students from several of Boston’s colleges, including Boston University, UMass Boston, Tufts, Boston College, MIT, and Harvard, organized at 1:30 p.m. at the Boston Common Band Stand and, from there, marched to Dewey Square to participate in solidarity with Occupy Boston and its allies, including local coalition MASSUniting.

In support of the day, Occupy encampments across the country engaged in unique marches with their own specific demands. In Boston, all eyes were on the North Washington Street Bridge (also known as the Charlestown Bridge), a prime example of outdated architecture in the city. When occupiers last marched to the bridge, police barricaded the structure, fearing that it would not be able to withstand such a large number of people on it at once.

“I think that if we fix the bridges, like the Charlestown Bridge and other infrastructure, we’ll put a lot of people to work,” said Gayle McMahon, 40. Making the structures safe again would involve making jobs available to a number of unemployed and under-employed Bostonians. It’s a win-win idea.

The group was undeniably diverse, not only in age and race but also in why they came out in support of the Day of Action.

“I don’t necessarily hold the same views as a lot of the people here,” said Andre X., 25, “but that’s not the nature of the movement. I wanted to offer my support to the movement, and I hope that this march will make people more aware of it.”

William Finucane, 23, said that he came out “in solidarity with the occupations around the world, and especially New York, which has some pretty big marches going on today, and especially in light of their recent eviction from their occupation site.” Finucane attended the march “as an anti-Capitalist” who sees Occupy as the ideal medium to discuss how to implement “a more just economic system.”

Occupy Wall Street’s eviction from Zuccotti Park on Tuesday morning played a significant role in why many protestors chose to march at this time in particular.

“I’m very much a proponent of the Constitutional right to gather,” said Tonopah Greenlee, 26. “The fact that a government would hide behind safety concerns to break up a protest that’s been going on for two months without giving the protestors a fair chance to speak their minds is really upsetting to me.”

DSCN1743.JPGAs marchers gathered in Dewey Square, volunteers passed out glow sticks, flyers, and ponchos to anyone who didn’t think to bring an umbrella. Despite the cold and rain, morale was extraordinarily high, with members of the group dancing to Public Enemy and joking as they waited for the march, which began nearly a half hour late, to start.

The group’s informal leaders were adamant that participants remain organized and play by the rules, including staying off the sidewalks and not obstructing traffic. Thanks to the clear expectations communicated among marchers, as well as the Boston Police Department’s support, the event went largely without incident (unless the one guy who yelled at the protestors to “Go home, you bums!" counts as an incident).

“We will be marching with a clear message to the Charlestown Bridge, one of the most decrepit bridges in this city,” a representative told the crowd via megaphone before setting off. “[Our message is] that we have unemployed people that could fix that bridge so that one day all of us might actually be able to stand on it.”

Once the group reached the bridge, several local union workers spoke to the crowd, highlighting the benefits that repairing the North Washington Street Bridge could bring to the community.

“This bridge is broken, and we want it fixed. We want Congress to fix it. We want to work to fix it. We want to be paid to fix it,” one worker demanded. In order for the whole crowd to hear, Occupiers used the "people's mic," repeating each line of the speech in unison, with enthusiasm. “America’s falling apart, and we’re here to fix it.”

“We don’t want unemployment checks -- we want paychecks,” said another speaker. “We want to get back to work building our country, building our families, and building our communities.”

Though Occupy has been criticized for their lack of a clear-cut message, this time around, the message could not be missed: “We don’t want cuts to social programs," the speaker said. "We want to work. We want jobs.”

About Vanessa -- Vanessa Formato is a 22-year-old Clark University graduate, freelance journalist, vegan cupcake enthusiast and video game aficionado. She blogs about body image and tweets about puppies. So awesome, even John Stamos is impressed.

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