Close to 200,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C., on Saturday at a rally organized by One Nation Working Together. In the midst of the hundreds of thousands of people, thousands of New Yorkers made the trip to D.C., letting their voices be heard. The rally was held in response to the growing roar of the Republican, Tea Party and conservative cloud that many believe is threatening the upcoming midterm elections.
A diverse crowd of liberal Americans representing all 50 states literally took over Washington. Causes and advocacy on issues were just as diverse as the people who attended the rally, which included social action groups and labor unions. Among those prominent from New York were members of labor unions such as 1199 SEIU, the United Federation of Teachers and DC 37.
“I’m here marching in unity with my brothers and sisters,” said [[ED: NAME?]] New York State director for One Nation Working Together. “Over 120,000 from New York came. It sends a strong message that when we get back home, we are going to go into these voting booths and vote for people who put working families first.”
Several New York politicians were on hand, including Reps. Charles Rangel and Yvette Clark, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. Invited by the UFT, de Blasio said that he thought it was inspiring to see such a big turnout.
“This is about saying we’re on the mark, we’re on the move,” de Blasio said. “We want to create jobs in our country. That’s what people really want. Somehow, the debate has been usurped by the right wing, and they’re not talking about the things that people really care about. This is perfect timing because it’s going to energize people for November 2.”
Several City Council members were also at the rally, including Inez Dickens and Gail Brewer. City Council members had designated buses that took their constituents to Washington for free. The buses were provided by the UFT. Brooklyn City Council Member Jumaane Williams brought about 40 people from his district in East Flatbush.
He said, “We’ve let the wrong people take control of the makeup of America. This rally represents the right message. It’s important that I’m here to represent my community. Midterm elections are very important and we have to make sure everyone comes out.”
President of the UFT, Michael Mulgrew, said that that union brought well over 150 buses and an entire train of members and supporters. Mulgrew said that while the march did focus on education, the march was also about what direction America should go in.
“This country has to be about all people,” Mulgrew said. “Not just certain people who just want to control everything and continue to keep people in poverty. We work in all of the communities of New York City and we see what’s going on in the community. At the same time, we are being attacked constantly. We are down here to say ‘enough’ and we are not going to stand for it.”
The director of the NAACP New York State Branch, Hazel Dukes, said that the civil rights organization had 27 buses. She said that, in all, 700 buses left New York City from various organizations, unions and groups. Dukes recalled that she was at the 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
“I was out there with the spirit that you have today,” she said. “Freedom doesn’t sleep. We are the greatest organization beside the labor unions. We made it in ’63, and we are making it now.”