Only a handful of mayors have voiced support of the hundreds of Occupations going on across the country. Most have been on the west coast.
- The mayor of Arcata, California, for example, joined protesters.
- Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is “being patient” with protesters although has tried to get them to move to City Hall. They have not done this, however and, yesterday, had their biggest march yet.
- Portland, Oregon Mayor Sam Adams released a statement saying, “I support Portlanders in their right to protest and exercise free speech rights, and I encourage all who participate to do so peacefully and with respect to the rights of others.”
- In San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee released a statement saying he supported the “spirit” of the protest but, since then, has cracked down on protesters. His mayoral opponent, John Avalos, has been vocally supportive of the protest.
- Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has expressed support of Occupy Minneapolis.
- Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has voiced support of Occupy LA and recently distributed 100 rain ponchos to protesters. The LA City Council passed a resolution supporting the protest.
But perhaps nowhere has a mayor welcomed supporters like Lansing, Michigan Mayor Virg Bernero. First, he sent trash cans and portable toilets to the occupation site, Reutter Park. He also issued a permit to them without an expiration date. On Thursday night, he appeared on The Ed Show where he said “This unholy alliance of Washington and Wall Street hasn’t served average Americans very well and they are rising up. It started in New York. It spread. And now it is in Lansing and I welcome it in Lansing, Michigan.”
Then, yesterday, at a rally at the State Capitol Building, Bernerno, who lost his gubernatorial bid to Republican Rick Snyder, offered his support as he welcomed protesters to Lansing:
Welcome to your state, welcome to your State Capitol. It looks like the people have come calling on the People’s House. You are most welcome. On behalf of all the citizens of Lansing, I welcome you.
I ask you, are you ready to take back your government? Do you want a government by the people? [YES!] For the people? [YES!] Are you willing to fight like hell to make the American Dream good again? [YES!]
You give me hope. You really do. I want to thank each and every one of you for being here, to come and and stand strong — for yourself, for your family, for your neighbor — to restore America. Your patriotism shines brightly today. You stand proudly for the American Dream, and you haven’t given up on America, thank God.
Speaking of the American Dream, I’d like to introduce an example of that American Dream and a very special guest, the man who came a long way, a long time ago, in search of a better life. And he found it right here in America. I want you to join me in welcoming my hero, the man Wall Street hates (I’ll explain more later), my father Julio Bernero. [APPLAUSE] He’s over here in the red cap. Raise your hand, dad.
My father worked hard his entire life. He never knew leisure. I remember many days him coming back from work and going out on another job. Eventually, after his produce business, he went to work for General Motors. He worked for many years and he earned a modest pension, a pension that is greatly resented by the folks on Wall Street, just like they resent his social security.
He and my mom raised five kids straight into the middle class. We call him “dad”, “grandpa”, “uncle”. Wall Street has another name for him: legacy cost.
You know as well as I do that the banksters and the hucksters on Wall Street, our seniors are nothing but a burden that need to be reduced, eliminated, slashed. But it’s not just an age thing. The one-percenters don’t want to be bothered with much of anything to do with social responsibility or public investment. Short of a bloated military budget, they don’t see much good in government, do they? The one-percenters subscribe to the old “trickle down theory”. You know the theory, that if you sprinkle enough at the top and you take care of those folks with the tax breaks and the loopholes and the goodies, that eventually, eventually, some of that will trickle down to the rest of us. And I don’t know about you, I don’t know about you, my friends, but I’m tired of being trickled on! I’m tired of the folks at the top getting taken care of and the other folks, the rest of us, the 99%, being left with the crumbs.
You deserve better. America deserves better. Our seniors deserve better. Would you join me? Our children deserve better. Our students deserve better. Our families deserve better. Our veterans deserve better. America deserves better. And thank God you’re here to fight for it.
The unholy alliance of Wall Street and Washington has failed to deliver for Main Street, that’s the reality. We need a Main Street agenda in place of the Wall Street agenda. So whattya say? MAIN STREET, NOT WALL STREET! MAIN STREET, NOT WALL STREET! MAIN STREET, NOT WALL STREET! MAIN STREET, NOT WALL STREET!
My friends, the America that beckoned my dad some seventy years ago from Italy, that America of hope and optimism and opportunity, that America that caused Julio Bernero to pack what they could carry on their backs and leave their loved ones and risk it all for the promise of a better life, a fair shot, that America hangs in the balance. That America of opportunity for all. Not just the few at the top, but opportunity for all. That’s the America I’m fighting for, that’s the America I know you’re here for, that’s the America we’re going to bring back. It’s not the ugly, winner-take-all, Darwinian view, the Darwinian corporate view. The 99% have been taken for granted for too long.
Thank you Occupy Lansing, thank you Occupy Wall Street for standing up and sounding the alarm that the American Dream is jeopardy.
If Bernero’s speech sounds a bit like a stump speech, it’s because much of it is very much recycled from his run for governor. He has run on a blue-collar, fight-for-the-little-guy platform against corporate interests all along so this is familiar ground for him. I commend him for his support of the movement and hope other mayors around the country will join him.