“THE PEOPLE! UNITED! WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED!”
“BANKS GOT BAILED OUT, WE GOT SOLD OUT!”
“SHOW ME WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE—THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!”
“WE! ARE! THE 99 PERCENT!”
Hundreds of Chicagoans, myself included, exercised our right to public protest outside the downtown Hyatt on Monday, where the Mortgage Bankers Association was holding its annual conference.
Inside the corporate castle were some of the people responsible for deciding how housing finances are distributed—their practices are leaving millions of Americans unable to afford their mortgages.
In addition to the unfair banking processes that plague America, the super-rich haven’t been paying fair taxes on the money they make. This makes the American people angry because the middle class is paying more taxes than the CEOs who make millions each year.
This tax disparity is eliminating the middle-class; if things don’t change soon, all we will be left with is the super-rich and the super-poor. The statistics don’t lie: The richest 20 percent of America controls 85 percent of the money, and the richest 400 Americans make more money than 150 million of the average Americans.
All of these statistics speak to the unequal distribution of wealth within our country, where 1 percent of the American population benefits from the capitalism system, while the 99 percent feels exploited, and this 99 percent have mobilized to do something about it.
Monday’s protest was part of the Occupy Chicago movement, which stands in solidarity with those who have been occupying Wall Street for the past several weeks. We are not all young, tattooed, dreadlocked, pierced hippies beating our drums and dancing in the middle of the street. Some of us are, but not all of us.
We are teachers asking for adequate funding to well-equip our students for the future.
We are children asking for nutritious breakfast programs to be provided in our schools so we can grow up to be healthy.
We are students asking for loan debt to be forgiven so we can live without our education’s debt cloud looming over us.
We are families asking for fair mortgage rates so that we can raise our families in homes large enough to accommodate all of us.
As individuals spoke into microphones, sharing the ways in which corporate greed has affected their lives, 50 or so mortgage bankers literally looked down on us from their balcony, not 20 feet away from the crowd. They snapped photos on their phones, smoked, drank and rolled their eyes as we shouted, “PAY YOUR FAIR SHARE.”
Among those who shared their personal stories was a recent North Park grad, who fought back tears as she told us of her family’s struggle with foreclosure and her inability to find a teaching job in our failing economy. She finished her heartfelt speech with, “I need my elected officials to stop standing up for Wall Street and start standing up for my street!”
The crowd erupted in agreement.
After our time in front of the Hyatt, we marched down Michigan Avenue and reconvened in front of Millennium Park, this time joining more than 7,000 other protesters who had migrated from all over the city.
The mortgage bankers were all there to watch us, and we don’t know if we made them nervous or if our actions today will fix our broken system.
What I do know is that they saw our signs and dancing, heard our drumming and shouting, and downtown Chicago stopped to listen to us.
Screaming “WE ARE THE 99 PERCENT” with 6,999 strangers is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever done. Whether you agree with my views or not, I want you to know that unless you are a millionaire, you are part of the 99 percent.
What’s happening on Wall Street affects you and we were marching for you, too.