President George Gresham Arrested During Occupy Wall Street Mass Day of Action

November 18, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement is alive and well. And it’s growing. This was dramatically demonstrated November 17 by support actions in 30 cities across the U.S. and in nations around the world to mark the two-month anniversary of the movement.

New York City’s day-long actions, began in the morning at the New York Stock Exchange and ended with a rally and demonstration estimated by police at 35,000 to 50,000 people.

The rally at Manhattan’s Foley Square was followed by a march across the Brooklyn Bridge. Just before the march, dozens of demonstrators were arrested for sitting down on the bridge’s roadway. 1199SEIU President George Gresham and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry were two of those arrested for their acts of civil disobedience.

Two days earlier, Gresham denounced the violent removal of peaceful OWS protesters from Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park by the City and the New York Police Department. He condemned the military-style attack executed in the dead of night against peaceful protesters as “a direct assault on democracy.”

“It’s time for the one percent to pay their fair share, so that the 99 percent can begin to live the American dream,” Gresham said before his arrest.

“We’re going to sit down and commit civil disobedience to call attention to the economic emergency in this nation,” said Henry.

Protestors blocked bridges in major cities across the country to emphasize the thousands of people who could be put to work rebuilding the nation’s ailing infrastructure.

Many demonstrators at the November 17 rally carried signs focusing on NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his violent removal of the occupiers and destruction of their encampment. One hand-made placard sarcastically thanked the Mayor for helping to build the movement by employing his repressive tactics. “You Can’t Evict an Idea Whose Time Has Come!” read another sign.

By late afternoon, the Foley Square rally began to swell. And as darkness fell, tens of thousands had crowded into the area. Among them were unionists, students, children, seniors and clergy. “I decided that I’m not going to stay home and watch things happen,” said Helena Clark, a St. John’s Episcopal Hospital RN. “I’m a single mom with two kids in college. I’m part of that middle class, the 99 percent who can’t make ends meet.”

“I just came from an 1199 Retirees Local meeting where we gave away turkeys and bags of food to retirees who can’t afford the things that we take for granted on Thanksgiving,” said 1199SEIU retiree Maurice Philips. He attended the rally with a contingent of retirees who stood behind 1199SEIU banners and signs demanding economic justice.

“This reminds me of when people hit the streets to end the Vietnam War,” said Corey Bell, a Beth Israel Hospital patient care assistant.

Rather than the usual cast of union, political and activist leaders, the Foley Square rally heard from students, workers and other community activists. The youngest speaker was Kiki Reyes, a middle school student who asked the city to restore funding for science, art and music labs.

College students explained how the cost of education has climbed beyond their reach. 1199SEIU homecare member Margaret Passley condemned Chase Manhattan bank for foreclosing on her home.

1199SEIU retiree Monnie Callan a child of the Great Depression in the 1930s, has been marching since the 1940s. She recently had two operations, but she rode the subways during the day with OWS activists. “I am very inspired by their unity and creativity," she said at the rally. “They speak for all of us. They need all the support and help we can give them.”