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Aaron Bartley

Aaron Bartley is Executive Director of People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH).

April 28th, 2010 4:23 PM

PUSH Buffalo Joins the Showdown on Wall Street

In the nearly two years since the biggest banks precipitated a devastating economic meltdown and then exploited the moment to win billions in taxpayer bailouts and billions more in free money from the Federal Reserve, not a single public demonstration of significance has darkened the doors of the Wall Street overlords or their lobbyist apologists in DC.  That's about to change.  Thanks to caravans of everyday working people numbering in the thousands from blue-collar cities like Wichita, Des Moines and Buffalo, both Wall Street and K Street will see major mobilizations of "Showdown" activists over the next month.

The Showdown on Wall Street will unfold on April 29th and is sponsored by the AFL-CIO and National People's Action (NPA).  National People’s Action is a national network of independent community groups of which PUSH Buffalo, the community organization I direct in Buffalo, NY, is a member.  The fifty community leaders making the trip from Buffalo to Wall Street will join a crowd that is expected to reach 10,000.  The Showdown will provide an outlet for our anger and a voice for change in the wake of sensational allegations against Goldman Sachs, recently-announced record foreclosure rates and continuing unemployment.

Showdown demonstrations have a reputation for creative props and stealthy direct action.  The first Showdown was held last fall at the American Bankers Association conference in Chicago and featured a temporary occupation of Wells Fargo offices as well as 200 uninvited community "guests" at a bankers’ awards dinner.  The Showdown on Wall Street will not disappoint in the direct action department, but the mobilization will be more than noisemakers and chants.   We will deliver a clear and coherent message to the five banks -- Goldman, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup -- who have collectively spent hundreds of millions of dollars to beat back even the most modest of reform measures to call for good jobs now, bank accountability and good investment in America.

Due to massive disinvestment by global corporations resulting in the loss of over 150,000 decent-paying manufacturing jobs in Buffalo, our neighborhoods have been in dire need of a bailout for more than thirty years, but none has been forthcoming.  The crisis of joblessness, crumbling infrastructure and poverty in our neighborhoods is incomparably more severe than the stresses faced by investment bankers at the height of the financial meltdown they caused, but Buffalo’s crisis has never prompted emergency action by Congress.  

With more than 15,000 vacant structures in need of rehabilitation or demolition and ongoing environmental degradation caused by our ancient sewer system, Buffalo needs a New Deal-style investment in our infrastructure so that we can fully access our many assets, including the greatest fresh water source in the world and our sensational architectural and city planning heritage.   Our community leaders are coming to Wall Street next week to call for investment in Buffalo’s Main Street and others across the heartland.  And we’re calling on the bankers who tanked our economy and who continue to receive outrageous compensation to pay for it through the implementation of a modest financial transaction tax.

Following the Wall Street action, we’ll be taking the Showdown to K Street in Washington DC -- the bastion of bought-and-sold corporate flaks -- on May 17th.  The Showdown movement will release a target list of the most egregious big bank lobbyists and lobbying firms and call on them to abandon their campaigns to ruin our democracy and our country.  Specifically, lobbyists and banks will be asked, for the good of the country, to abandon opposition to a unified consumer protection agency and to pay restitution for their part in causing the economic collapse by paying a financial speculation tax.

Showdown activists have a powerful message about the economic pain that everyday people in the heartland are feeling and will articulate reasonable policy responses to ameliorate this pain.  We also have a laser-sharp focus on the perpetrators -- the big banks and their lobbyist lackeys -- who impoverished millions of Americans through their wild speculation and promotion of bubble economics.

Join us in working for an economy that works for all of us: www.showdowninamerica.org

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