Thousands of people marched on Wall Street on Thursday afternoon in a major protest of financial sector greed and lending practices by big banks.
(Scroll down for PHOTOS from the protest.)
Taking to the streets of downtown Manhattan, an expected gathering of 10,000 AFL-CIO union members shouted and jeered at the offices surrounding them, demanding three major changes to Wall Street culture. The first is to call off the lobbyists fighting regulatory reform. The second is to stop the incessant focus on market speculation over business lending. The third is to chip in money for job creation initiatives.
"Our history and our heritage teach us that America is about more than making easy money and looking out for number one. Our lives and our livelihoods are all bound together. And we are all paying the price for those who knew no limits on their greed," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was to say, according to advance remarks. "Eight and a half million lost jobs -- that's the price of greed -- that's the real cost of bankers' bonuses and private jets and cute tricks like the one that got Goldman Sachs in trouble last week."
The remarks were far more condemning in tone than those offered by President Obama last week during a speech at Cooper Union, in which he urged financial industry titans to join him in passing reform. But the underlying message was largely the same: the mess made by Wall Street still needs cleaning.
The rally, one of the largest in recent memory to take place at the epicenter of the financial world, was timed to begin at 4:00 p.m. on the dot, the same hour when the trading bells close. Dozens of individual unions were expected to be in attendance, with a slow march planned down a six-block route followed by Trumka's speech at the iconic bull at the corner of Wall Street and Broad.
"He's going to grab the bull by the horns, figuratively speaking," said AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale.
It is, for the union, ideal timing. Back in D.C. -- where the AFL-CIO is headquartered -- regulatory reform finds itself on the cusp of passing through the Senate after Democrats broke a three-day long filibuster and brought legislation to the floor. The legislation still comes up short of many of the AFL-CIO's loftier goals, in some respects underscoring the frustrations that labor has had with Democratically-led Congress. But Trumka has been supportive of the bill nonetheless and is likely to cheer progress in the Senate as a sign of where the political winds are blowing.
Indeed, the conventional wisdom holds that Republicans dropped their opposition because they sensed they were on the losing side of a divisive argument. The conservative base, after all, is just as livid as the unions with the favoritism Wall Street enjoys in Washington D.C.
On Thursday, however, the AFL-CIO was out-tea partying the Tea Partiers: demanding tougher rules for the financial industry from the belly of the beast. The Huffington Post reached out to two official Tea Party organizations to see if they would send individuals to the Wall Street march. Neither Tea New York nor the Tea Party Express would be in attendance, said officials.