Street Heat Rises

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

While I write this I’m listening to the speakers at a rally at the Lansing, Michigan, state house. It’s a live video feed arranged by Michael Moore, god bless him. I don’t know how long the rally will continue, or when you’ll read this, but if you want to see whether it’s still going on, look here.

“There’s a reason they come after organized labor,” the speaker is saying. “Every time there’s been a movement for social change, organized labor has been at the front. The middle class wasn’t a gift from Wall Street, it was the blood, sweat, tears of people who work for their living.”

Since Saturday, the predominant theme for demonstrations and rallies across the US has been “Defend the American Dream.” There are still some to be held this week. If you want to find whether there’s one near you, go here and enter your ZIP code.

But what I really want you to do now is put April 4 on your calendar and promise yourself you’ll get out in the street then — during lunch hour or after work or school, for as much time as you can give.  The day’s events are being organized primarily by the AFL-CIO and affiliated unions.  The theme is “We Are One.” The date is highly significant in US history, and the history of the labor and civil rights movements, which a great many people are coming to realize are forever intertwined. “We,” in the title doesn’t refer only to union people. It means everyone who cares about what’s happening to our country.

On April 4, 1968,Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, where he had gone to stand with sanitation workers demanding their dream: The right to bargain collectively for a voice at work and a better life. The workers were trying to form a union with AFSCME.

Beginning with worship services over the April 1 weekend, and continuing through the week of April 4, unions, people of faith, civil and human rights activists, students and other progressive allies will host a range of community and workplace-focused actions.

Join us in solidarity with working people in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and dozens of other states where well-funded, right-wing corporate politicians are trying to take away the rights Dr. King gave his life for. It’s a day to show movement. Teach-ins. Vigils. Faith events. A day to be creative, but clear:
We are one

Click here to see events already listed. But if there’s nothing near you now, come back closer to the date. I know of dozens of locations that aren’t listed yet (including the one I’m helping to organize).  [Note to readers within reach of New Haven, Connecticut: The events page shows one there scheduled for March 30.)

And if there’s nothing near you, how about starting something yourself? The We Are One site has resources to help you.

I hope you get the importance of getting out in the street and showing you are not going to let yourself be oppressed by corporate capitalists and the politicians they own. We’ve been too relaxed and optimistic, while our ability to earn has stayed stagnant, or declined, for the past thirty years. And at the same time the distribution of wealth has become so skewed toward the top 2% that there’s nothing left of social and economic justice.

Now it’s our turn.  We’ve got to turn this thing around. And it’s happening.

[UPDATE on the Lansing rally: while I was writing the video camera and about 50 protesters moved into the state house rotunda to rally there. The police have been ordered to move them out and it’s not clear if they’re going to go. A vote is being taken on whether to occupy the building. I think you’re going to read about this tomorrow.  Whatever the papers say, please know that I’m seeing civility on both sides. If demonstrators get arrested it will be because of nonviolent acts of civil disobedience.]

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