OAKLAND - The city's streets echoed with cries of "healthcare not warfare!" and "banks got bailed out, we got sold out!" as more than 500 demonstrators marched for what they say is basic economic justice.
The "Jobs Not Cuts" event began with a rally at Laney College before moving along Eighth Street and Clay Street to Frank Ogawa Plaza, where it merged with the Occupy Oakland protest that's been encamped since Monday.
As marchers passed the federal office building on Clay Street, they were supposed to nail a list of their demands to a ceremonial wooden door set up just for the occasion. Those demands include investment in infrastructure, an end to U.S. wars, full funding of quality public education, Medicare for all, protection of union rights, shoring up Social Security, taxing the rich and big corporations, creating green jobs, stopping Wall Street speculation, and securing voting rights.
Unfortunately, in all the hubbub, they misplaced the list; the door remained unadorned.
But the rhetoric was hot at both ends of the march, which was conceived as a MoveOn.org event but ultimately was a partnership of dozens of labor, social justice, antiwar and community organizations. They hope their message and that of similar events nationwide will be heard by Congress, and particularly by the bipartisan "super committee" charged with drafting a national budget and deficit plan.
There were some philosophical outliers present
"This is just the beginning of our power -- wait 'til we vote," read one sign. "Take it back: Tax Wall Street," read another. "Debt relief -- it's in the Bible," read a third.
"We join together as Main Street to fight Wall Street," Alameda Labor Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Josie Camacho told the crowd, noting youths and seniors, working and unemployed, people of all colors and creeds are taking to the streets to call for taxing corporations that are profiting "on the backs of working families, the unemployed and underemployed That's what the fight for a revitalized Oakland is about."
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said she's deploying police to crime hot spots, "but that's not going to solve the problem" -- only better schools for kids, jobs for their parents and "giving people hope again" will calm the city's strife. That requires support from Congress, she said, urging the crowd to call and exert pressure upon California's House Republicans.
Kate Campana, 50, of Berkeley, carried a sign that read "Wall Street sucks, Main Street bleeds," and said she came "because it's absolutely necessary." She lost her event-management job 18 months ago and hasn't been able to find work since, and she knows too many others in the same boat, she said. "This is about time, it had to happen."
Jahnese Shinault, 60, of Concord stood along Eighth Street with four grandchildren she said she's raising on a fixed income, cheering on the marchers.
"It's fantastic, it's something that should've been happening for a long time," she said. "It's the only way they're going to pay attention to us - we've got to get into the streets."
Another slate of speeches greeted the marchers at Frank Ogawa Plaza, including a fiery oration from actor and activist Danny Glover.
"We are here because it's the right time to be here - we're tired of being sick and tired," Glover shouted from his perch on the back of a pickup truck, calling these demonstrations a means of "taking back our humanity."
"We know it's not a weekend party" but will require constant organizing in the weeks, months and years to come, he said. "It has to be a revolution, an evolution, a transformation."