AFT members and staff were among the crowd of hundreds who gathered at McPherson Square in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 17 to support the Occupy D.C. movement, which has turned the public park not far from the White House into a tent city even as other "Occupy" sites around the country are being dismantled.
On a cold and windy day, it was appropriate that the AFT contingent brought bags full of winter clothes, blankets and other items to help those camping at the park stay warm as winter approaches. AFT president Randi Weingarten, who spoke at the event, also brought books to donate to the on-site library.
People are scared of the Occupy movement, Weingarten said, or they wouldn't be evicting protesters from New York City and other cities around the country. "You can't evict an idea," she declared. "They can't stop this movement," which is about respect and dignity.
Weingarten praised the Washington Teachers' Union, which helped organize the event, for fighting for "every kid and every teacher in D.C." She noted that while it's easy to say all children deserve a good education, it's a lot harder to actually give schools what they need to make that happen. "There is no excuse for not giving our kids the conditions and resources they need," she said. "Economic dignity starts with educational opportunity."
Other speakers at the event included WTU president Nathan Saunders, the Rev. Graylan Hagler, and current and former WTU members. "We're here to support education and support what is right," Saunders said. "That starts with jobs and justice." Said Hagler, "The watchword of the day is respect"—including for schools, teachers, students and unions. "People should respect you, not neglect you."
Later in the day, the Occupy D.C. protesters marched to the Key Bridge, which runs between Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia, as part of a series of activities nationwide to draw attention to the need to upgrade the nation's crumbling infrastructure—and create good jobs in the process. [Dan Gursky/video by Brett Sherman and Matthew Jones]
November 17, 2011