Protest on Wall Street: No Bailout for Billionaires!

By Liz Gold, for Planet Waves

“The bailout is bullshit. We’re going to stop it.”

“The bailout is bullshit. You broke it, you bought it.”

“No bail! Send them to jail!”

These were the chants heard over and over again as protesters infiltrated the Stock Exchange Thursday in Manhattan’s financial district. These rallying cries were urgent, guttural, angry and directed at President Bush’s plan to spend upwards of $700 billion to make up for the disastrous Wall Street shakedown.

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Protester in New York’s financial district Thursday afternoon. Photo by Liz Gold.

The proposal, announced by the president Wednesday evening, would allow the treasury to buy troubled assets with the hope of restoring confidence to the credit markets. On Thursday, Democrats and Republicans battled it out in Washington D.C. in an effort to come up with a nonpartisan counterproposal. Instead, they are at a standstill unable to agree on what needs to be done revealing their divisiveness – even in the face of a profound crisis that affects all American people.

Needless to say, people are pissed.

“I’m here because I’m furious that the government is considering giving $700 billion to financial companies,” said Hannah from Queens. “Is there money for healthcare? No. Is there money for education? No. But there is a trillion dollars for multi-million companies? It’s crazy.”

The protest was a call to self-organize set forth by Arun Gupta, a journalist at the Indypendent newspaper, who sent an e-mail to friends and colleagues earlier in the week that quickly circulated the web and sparked the rally downtown. People brought personal trash and junk to illustrate Wall Street’s now worthless assets. The pile, appropriately enough, was stacked on the ground by the famous Bull of Wall Street’s back end, aka its balls.

“This is the financial equivalent of September 11,” Gupta wrote in his e-mail. “They think, just like with the Patriot Act, they can use the shock to force through the вЂ?therapy’, and we’ll just roll over!”

Starting at the southern end of Bowling Green around the bronze Merrill Lynch bull, protesters started marching to Wall Street where the rally congregated on the steps of the Stock Exchange. Chanting ensued. Cameras were snapping and rolling, journalists were quoting people with their notepads. Handmade signs with messages such as “Bail Me Out Too,” circulated within the crowd – which was in the hundreds. All this while business people in suits and ties dodged the rally the best they could, many with BlackBerry to ear, annoyed and somewhat smug at the situation.

One disgruntled man grumbled, “Motherfuckers” while briskly walking through the shoulders of people.

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Protesters on the steps of the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday afternoon protest the proposed bailout for investment banks. Photo by Liz Gold.

“The idea of just handing our money to Wall Street is dog poop,” said Eric from Brooklyn, who happened to be carrying a blue bag of fake dog doo. “That’s what we’ve been asked to do. These guys lost all our money and now they want us to refill their bank accounts with our money. That’s insane. For every dollar we give them, we need a dollar worth of equity in their company.”

Some financial folks, however, got right in with the protesters. One smiled but refused to talk with me, but his sign, “The crimes are endless. Drive out the Bush regime” said it all. Another shrugged and said he didn’t have an opinion. His buddy, though, did.

“It’s necessary for the entire economic structure,” offered “Bob” from New Jersey, clad in an expensive suit, clutching his cigarette like a gangster. “There’s the potential that the government can make money off this because they are buying assets. They are going to get 11 percent.”

Then Bob got a little more real: “I think what happened was a mistake, yes. The money train was rolling but nobody thought it was going to stop.”

Tony, an investment banker who works in the financial district, was watching the crowd dissolve from the Stock Exchange steps and flow down Broad Street. He said he thought most people really didn’t understand the scope of what was going on.

“I think a lot of people are putting a lot of blame on Wall Street but you have to put the blame on the home owner in Iowa who makes 50 grand a year and wants a $500,000 house, the head of the local bank that gives the loan to that person, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae that package those loans together and the people on Wall Street who paid too much for those packaged assets” said Tony, who identifies as a democrat.

“To be honest, I think the bailout is the right solution. They [just] have to figure out how to do it. I think it’s going to end up better for the taxpayer in the long run and in the short term it will make the market more stable.”

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Daren and Dara in Battery Park after the Wall Street bailout protest. Photo by Liz Gold.

The protest threaded through the Wall Street area, with police officers standing off on both sides, mainly on motorcycles and on foot. When asked how many officers were dispatched to the scene, an officer refused to answer. When asked if he knew the rally was taking place today, the same officer replied, “I can’t tell you that.”

Heading towards Battery Park, where a mime of the Statue of Liberty stands with tourists as they take photographs, the last of the protesters gathered around a fountain, a cruise ship as a backdrop. Drumming calmed the crowd, while the rally slowly dissipated. Walking toward the subway, a couple was perched peacefully on a bench, as the man holds up a sign that perhaps sums up the plight of many: “I’ve got a 4.0 GPA, $90,000 in debt and no job. Where is my bailout?”

5 thoughts on “Protest on Wall Street: No Bailout for Billionaires!”

  1. Agree – great article. Chutzpah – it looks like we are still very much asleep over here as another nationalisation plan is being drawn up for Bradford & Bingley…there will be more to come for sure.

  2. Great Post! People are waking up.
    Some economists have since a while likened the current situation to the beginning of the Great Depression and the crash of 1929. Is there an astrological parallel that would support this? Pluto’s entry into Capricorn may provide a useful metaphor for the current situation, and drive home the point that this is a systemic crisis that’s not solved through any kind last minute bailout package.

  3. I really wish us Brits would get abit more fighting spirit in us about this issue, the response to the forced Merger of LloydsTSB with HBO was lackluster. Maybe we havent got the same sense of urgency as in the US because the bailout is on a smaller scale but that looks like it may change – rumours are afoot that a Government bailout similar to the one being hashed out in the US is imminent…
    British banks reportedly seek bailout

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