With U.S. Chamber of Commerce representatives standing by and security guards at the door, the Operation Green Jobs March, sponsored by Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC), and Shut the Chamber, arrived in Washington, DC on May 24th as planned, from Philadelphia, PA.
Amazingly, the 150-mile seven-day journey from Pennsylvania and over and across Maryland to Washington, DC occurred without any major incidents. Of course, it had been week of unpredictable weather, sore muscles, fatigue, and exposure to the elements.
The march began with kickoff rally in Philadelphia last Saturday, May 18th. The rally on an empty lot near a North Philadephia community church included chanted poetry, open-mic speeches, and folk guitar duos. From there the group followed a route that varied from tertiary feed roads to state highway.
It could have been Woodstock in miniature except with its postmodern assortment of young to elderly, from Dutch heritage to Native American, blue collar and mixed genders, all were attentive to the message.
Philadelphians have recently been alarmed by a spate of public school closures and staff layoffs. Add to this rural farms overlaying shale reserves that are being exploited through invasive fracking companies with minimal environmental entailments, and no wonder taxpayers feel that they are being served a double whammy.
Shut the Chamber march organizer Carl Gibson’s interviews with marchers, also livestreamed, provide a glimpse into a long week of pondering, sorting, and clarifying ideas on Operation Green Jobs impacts, as evident from the sharing.
Jacob describes his harrowing life moving from one tent city to another, hardships compounded by changes at his school.
“15 teachers and 20 staff members were cut out in the middle of the year… All the people who helped me are gone now.”
Luciano, a high school graduate who marched all the way to DC, shared his enthusiasm about being involved in the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights campaign:
“Don’t kill our generation. Don’t ruin it…I hope in the future some more of the young people will be involved.”
Liz, who had been downsized from a good job, shared the changes in perspective she has underwent:
“Not everyone going to feel the way I feel, but I see it like this; if they don’t form their [experience walking in someone else’s] shoes, being homeless, or suffering in this world, they won’t know anything, they sleeping.”
According to Cheri Honkala, lead organizer from the Poor People’s Human Rights Campaign, and Vice President of the Green Shadow Cabinet:
“We’re marching for lives…the situation is 10 times worse than it was even five years ago. We can’t afford to just sit around while the gangsters at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce continue to play with our lives…We’ve got to stop lettng the corporations and politicians decide that we don’t matter.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (US CoC)’s unpopularity among progressive groups is well-documented. For instance, Service Employees International Union has a Fact Sheet that includes the effects of Chamber lobbying against minimum wage increases, against union organizing, against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and against access for Americans with Disabilities.
According to Jake Parent from Public Citizen who spoke at the gathering on May 24th in front of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:
“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants you to believe that all they care about is creating a stronger better economy. But in reality all they care about is how much profit giant corporations can make. It doesn’t matter if they’re making that profit overseas; it doesn’t matter if they’re making that profit from selling weapons. And it certainly doesn’t matter if they’re making that profit from selling oil.”
Author and peace-activist David Swanson also said, “These are the people that have bought our government. And they bought it to tell it to stop buying things. To stop buying schools, to stop buying jobs, to stop buying houses, to stop buying green energy. But there’s one thing the US CoC wants the government to buy, and that is weapons!”
After marching single file, chanting, and singing, there was a prayer led by Sister Margaret, who had also marched part-way, and who also stated:
“The biggest drug dealer in the world is in this building. All the people who work for these addictions. Let us get well. With God’s power we can be well and the planet can be green, and we can love, together.”
As the Operation Green Jobs leaders sat on the steps of the U.S. CoC demanding entry or an interview, Carl Gibson also expostulated on the US CoC’s shadowy and corrupt agenda:
“Going back to 1971, they had a plan to systematically, over a long period of time, take over academia (public schools and colleges), the media, and the government, and through that basically run the country…”
The group continued to rally and speech-make for nearly an hour, including marcher Mark, who decried the notion of complex green job creation measures:
“There’s no such thing as a job creator. Jobs already exist… It’s just a matter of whether profiteers can make a profit on them; so they won’t do it. So we have to do it ourselves, by creating gardens, by taking over abandoned housing, rehabbing [rehabilitating] them. They’re not going to pay for it…”
He also pointed out that getting out the vote should include educating more people about the Green Party (including its Green New Deal).
The march closed with promises to come back with more marchers next year. Cheri Honkala projected beamily:
“And those of you who have been looking a million different places for work in order to feed your family, a new day is gonna come!”
The closing chant of “I will be back!” struck an upbeat chord with everyone regarding the tenacity of this year’s journey.
Judging from PPEHRC’s record of successful marches, including the 12-week, 24-city caravan from New Orleans to Detroit for the US Social Forum in 2010, they may indeed be back.
Author would especially like to acknowledge Shut the Chamber lead organizer Carl Gibson for research and allowing access to interviews on Livestream and Facebook.