Mainstream pols embrace — or is that simply try to be embraced by — the ‘Occupy’ movement

Mainstream pols embrace — or is that simply try to be embraced by — the ‘Occupy’ movement
Andrew Burton

A group of Brooklyn politicians and union representatives — led by Democratic Party boss Assemblyman Vito Lopez — will march across the Brooklyn Bridge to Zuccotti Park on Oct. 25 in a “day of solidarity” with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Fort Greene) and Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg) will join the anti-greed march.

“We’re attempting to show that Brooklyn — the largest county — is supportive of what’s going on at that rally against Wall Street interests,” said Lopez (D–Bushwick), who has been in the assembly longer than many of the Occupy Wall Street protesters have been alive.

Lopez’s young protege Levin was an early supporter for the movement, showing up at the Occupy Brooklyn rally in Grand Army Plaza last Saturday.

“I would like to see this movement help to bring about some serious legislative changes and reforms,” he said, citing his support for a surcharge on high-wage earners — the so-called “Millionaire’s Tax” that Gov. Cuomo said he will allow to expire on schedule at the end of the year.

Tuesday’s march will begin with a rally in front of Borough Hall at 3:30 pm — there will be speeches, said Lopez — before the group heads to the Brooklyn Bridge en route to the larger protest in Manhattan.

The last time anti-Wall Street protesters marched across the bridge, on Oct. 1, more than 700 people arrested, but Lopez said getting in trouble isn’t on the agenda.

“Our intention is not to be arrested,” he said.

The protesters will lawfully walk over the bridge on the walking path, he added.

The “day of solidarity” is the latest show of support from local Democrats, who have started to embrace, and perhaps try to co-opt, the leaderless movement.

Some members of Occupy Brooklyn don’t have a problem with that right now.

“Any time it becomes popular movement, political leaders are going to try to acknowledge it,” said Brian Merchant, an organizer. “That’s part of what the protest is about.”

Yet others were more suspicious of the pols’ involvement.

“A lot of liberals are eager to use Occupy Wall Street to push their own message, both reformers and regulars alike,” said one political insider, who requested not to be named.

Lopez, however, emphasized his participation by citing the economic hardships endured by many in New York.

“The number of people living in poverty in New York has increased to a 12-year high of 20 percent,” he said. “A financial system where the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer will not work for the betterment of anyone.”

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at [email protected] or (718) 260-2531.

Assemblyman Vito Lopez — whatever happened to “never trust anyone over 30”?
The Brooklyn Paper / Aaron Greenhood