Local protests channel spirit of Wall Street rally

_Editor’s note: The print version of this article refers to the labor organization as “Jobs for Justice”. The name of this organization is “Jobs with Justice”, and has been corrected in this version. The Daily Illini regrets the error._

Local unions, community members and University students protested against corporations Saturday in Champaign during a rally put on by Jobs with Justice, an organization that addresses labor issues in Central Illinois.

Participants chanted phrases advocating justice in downtown Champaign, some also carrying symbols and signs reading “Tax the Rich” and “Solidarity.”

One symbol was of the American flag and in place of the stars were the logos of major corporations. Durl Kruse, Urbana resident and a member of Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice, said the flag was representative of the companies that have significant influence in the country.

Prior to the march, Ricky Baldwin, senior field organizer for the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, Local 73 said the reasons for these demonstrations, such as the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City, is because people are frustrated with job cuts and being “scapegoats” for the recession while companies received bailout money from the federal government.

“I think there’s been a lot of misinformation about what caused (the economic crisis), and there have been certain economic interests, wealthy interests that have been trying to make the crisis sound like it was the fault of people just having bad credit,” Baldwin said.

Germaine Light, speaking before the rally started, said people shouldn’t be deterred from demonstrating because there were many battles won in labor such as the child labor laws. Light assumed the persona of Mary Harris “Mother“ Jones, a prominent labor activist who worked in the early 1900s.

“Do not let the government take over any more of the rights that you had as the working class,” Light said. “Let’s make a statement today. Let’s fight for what we have.”

Originally Jobs with Justice planned this rally before Occupy Wall Street happened. Baldwin said the movement in New York aided in the organization’s original cause demonstrating the dissatisfaction across the nation.

“It’s really good to know folks are having similar ideas around the country about what to do about this jobs crisis,” Baldwin said.

University students were also present at the march. Josh Schwenk, senior in LAS, said he was inspired by all the protests around the country, especially because the banks were bailed out without giving anything back to the community.

“They’re making a huge profit while real wages for the ordinary American are going down,” Schwenk said. “The disparities are growing between the working class and the upper class … and that’s something that we can’t allow happen.”

The march ended at the Champaign Chase Bank, 303 S. Mattis Ave., where people chanted from the sidewalk around the bank. Later participants entered the bank and filled out withdrawal forms with the amount $94 million, the amount of bailout money Chase was given. Chase declined to comment on the march.

The protesters also considered themselves a part of the “99 percent,” which David Amerson, graduate student, described as “the percentage of people who don’t control the country’s wealth.”

“I believe we should be bailing out the working class for the country and the unemployed in our country and not bailing out Chase Bank,” Amerson said.