Sizzle and fizzle! Old-school pols’ ‘Occupy’ rally fades in Manhattan

Sizzle and fizzle! Old-school pols’ ‘Occupy’ rally fades in Manhattan
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A crew of old-school Brooklyn politicians failed to embrace Wall Street’s “occupiers” on Tuesday, rallying at Borough Hall and marching over the Brooklyn Bridge, but abandoning its mission before getting to the epicenter of movement, Zuccotti Park in Manhattan.

Elected officials and union representatives led by Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez stopped short of meeting with those who have been occupying the park for the past month — or making any speeches in solidarity with the protesters in Manhattan — instead opting to break up and go their separate ways once they reached the park where impromptu political speeches are a common practice.

In fact, some of the “occupiers” had no idea that a panoply of Brooklyn pols had shown its support.

“They could have gotten on the people’s mic to announce what was going on,” said Amelia Marzec, referring to the group chanting system used by protesters to amplify public speakers. “I did not even know they were there.”

Marzec added that she didn’t see the group mentioned on the Occupy Wall Street calendar that lets people know what’s going on at the park from day to day.

But before heading to Manhattan, the politicians, including Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Fort Greene), Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg) and Councilman Jumaane Williams (D–Flatbush), and Borough President Markowitz, talked the talk — even if they failed to walk the walk after their trip over the bridge.

“Brooklyn is in the house!” shouted Lopez, an assemblyman who represents Williamsburg and Bushwick. “All we’re doing here is advancing the agenda we’ve had for a long time around affordable housing and job creation.”

And others who took the microphone echoed the ethos of the “occupiers,” who say they are worried that the wealthiest one percent of the country controls at least one-third of the overall wealth.

“In New York City, 44 percent of all income goes to one percent of the population,” said Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store union.

Once the speeches were over, many headed toward the bridge for the march, with protesters carried signs reading “We are the 99 percent,” and “Millionaire’s tax now,” a plea to extend a state surcharge on incomes over $200,000, which expires on Dec. 31.

The rally in Brooklyn was organized without the help of Occupy Brooklyn, which rallied at Grand Army Plaze two weeks ago, and warily embraced Lopez and his gang.

“It’s good to see politicians get involved with the cause — provided they don’t co-opt the message,” said Occupy Brooklyn organizer Brian Merchant, who did not attend Tuesday’s march.

But rallying politicians dismissed the notion that they were marching for their own benefit.

“You’ll have to explain that to me,” said Lopez. “What’s there to gain?”

Other leaders noted that politicians involvement was necessary to get things done.

“Elected officials need to harness the energy out there and turn it into the policy that people are going for,” said Williams, who added that he’d like to see “occupiers” set up a base in Brooklyn. “People need to feel the connection between what’s going on here and there.”

Occupy Brooklyn general assembly (918 Kent Ave. between Willoughby and Myrtle avenues in Clinton Hill), Oct. 27, 7 pm. For info, visit www.occupybrooklyn.org.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow his Tweets at @from_where_isit.

Ralliers begin their march — escorted by the NYPD — from Borough Hall to Zuccotti Park.