As millions of viewers nation-wide made plans to join their friends for political primetime – the presidential debate, a smaller number of people representing community, environmental and economic justice gathered in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts with a different resolve – firmly rooted in the popular notion that “Change will not come from Washington. It will come to Washington”…..regardless of outcomes at the ballot-box.
A wide array of issues was bridged on this day in Harvard Square – the overarching theme being the “human impacts of dirty, high-risk financing”. Job-loss, home-evictions, thousands of lives threatened and lost to coal strip mining and dirty power generation – all impacts stemming from a fundamental flaw in the world of finance capital. Where big banks and their massive investment power lack any modicum of accountability to the health and wellbeing of people and communities, people are ready to send Wall Street the message: “Not With Our Money”.
Soledad Lawrence of Vida Urbana ignited the rally in front of Bank of America – naming the bank’s role in evicting working poor from their homes. The activists then marched to Citibank – where Alysha Suley of Rising Tide Boston reminded people that in naming dirty financing, we were also standing in solidarity with people living on the frontlines of dirty coal and climate change around the U.S. – from New Orleans to the mountains of Appalachia. And that is where the resolve lies – people standing up for people and proclaiming the public’s role in defending the public interest
The beauty of the day was that there was no space for cynicism. As local collective – Allied Music for People (AMP) began moving people with old union ballads and new songs for change; it became very evident that, people from all walks of life were standing at the doors to the Temple of Freemarketology, sharing a message that resonated with all present and passing by – students, tourists, shopkeepers, workers on their lunch-break. Even a few bank employees decided to join the ranks of those opposing dirty energy, poverty and injustice. “The Empire is Crumbling…..Hallelujah”…
Unlike many inspiring rallies and marches however, this one had a bit of a surprise – especially for the extra reinforcements brought in by Boston’s elite special response team; where members of (local climate justice group) Rising Tide Boston, slipped past more than fifty of these men in Kevlar to shut down the Citibank branch when the march arrived on the scene. It took over two hours for the Boston Police to remove these noble young women and men from the site –while the rally sang praise and appreciation. And the police were compelled to accord a measure of well-deserved respect in response to the confidence and serenity of these youth.
While coal is dirty, Wall Street is rotten and the big banks remain scoundrels, it was solidarity that won the day at Harvard Square…….and later that evening when our friends were released from the Cambridge police station, we decided to sit down in solidarity with many other affinity groups around the nation to share some food, open some beer and tune into prime-time to watch Obama vs. McCain, for a wee bit.