Sunday, November 06, 2011

Grand Rapids "Death of the Middle Class" March Photos

Over 300 people came to downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan yesterday for a New Orleans style funeral march for the late, great middle-class of America. Above is a (more-or-less) chronological slideshow of the event; hope you enjoy.

Billed as the "Death of the Middle Class" march, it was organized by the union-affiliated group We Are The People with an assist from Occupy Grand Rapids. A band led the way for "mourners" carrying coffins through town, participants were asked to wear black, and as you can see some brought masks and dressed up in costume for the occasion. After a short march through some of the core streets in the city, the procession returned to the plaza and enjoyed cider and donuts while listening to some speeches from local community organizers, religious leaders, and testimony from the unemployed and others who have struggled in this economy.

Some of you out there may be saying, "Hey, what's that big red-orange thing in some of the pictures?" That is a sculpture by Alexander Calder named "La Grande Vitesse", which is French for "the great swiftness", which can also be translated as "grand rapids". It was dedicated way back in 1969 as part of a downtown/urban renewal project that saw the plaza built - and you can thank the taxpayers for all of it.

This sculpture is notable for being the first public work of art in the United States to be funded with federal monies; acquired with funds granted from the then new National Endowment for the Arts under its “Art for Public Places” program.

Yes, folks, the symbol of the city of Grand Rapids - traditionally Republican, but as of late a light shade of blue - was made possible by what they call "socialism!" these days. Thinking about that always brings a smile to my face. It's on the street signs, it's on the city trucks, it's on some manhole covers in the roads, it's on the t-shirts for the tourists - all courtesy of the NEA. Now you know.

For anyone who thinks that these events are a waste of time, that no one cares or pays attention to protests, check out the coverage this got in the Grand Rapids Press, front page of today's Regional (section B) news.

Marchers carried black caskets and hoisted signs as they walked in a New Orleans style mock funeral procession through downtown Grand Rapids streets. Many carried small styrofoam gravestones, etched with R.I.P. and messages below such a "Good Jobs," "Labor Unions," "Middle Class," "Fair Wages," "K-12 Funding."

Ron Wood, a brother of Corrie Van Ravenswaay, lives with his sister to make ends meet.

"It's just so many things happening now, whether it's Medicaid or jobs," he said. "And right down to the whole Republican thing of not doing a thing. They refuse to do anything except keep a focus on getting Obama out of office," he said.

Pam Boomer of Rockford knows the economy is bad.

"I've got a 21-year-old son who is unemployed," she said. "I'm kind of looking for the future for him by coming here.

"He's busting his butt to find something, but hasn't been able to," she said.

Other personal stories were printed as well, stories of hardship that a lot of people can relate to. If they haven't been through it themselves, they probably know someone who has. They can identify. Getting it out in the press like this keeps the inequality theme fresh in the public mind, and, as long as it is pointed out that it is the Republicans who are obstructing progress on economic issues - it's a win.

Every protest, every story in the paper or on the television, is another drop of water on the rock - and that's exactly what this is going to take to turn this around. Call it "relentless positive action", to steal a phrase. (that's an inside joke for us Michigan folks)

No one said it will be easy. It will take years, decades even, to repair the damage of thirty years of trickle-down economics. And we'll probably have to drag the Democrats kicking and screaming all the way, too. But we better start somewhere, and it's events like this that help keep that momentum going.

So thank you, to everyone who came out yesterday, to everyone across the country, adding to the voices, adding to the crowd. Whether you can see it right now or not - you are making a difference.