PUSH Goes to Washington with National People’s Action

PUSH Buffalo recently took a trip to the nation’s capital, Washington, DC. National monuments and the White House notwithstanding, it was definitely quite the eventful trip. A tired group of 60 early risers boarded a chartered bus on the morning of May 19th, with no idea of what was in store for us in the next three days. If any in our group had advance knowledge about some of the things that were about to transpire, like Nicolas Cage did in “Knowing,” then some of us no doubt would’ve had reservations about the trip. These reservations, though, would have been for all the right reasons. So, for an eventful three days, where do we begin? First off, after about three hours on the road, our bus stops at a Wegmans grocery store (thank God for Wegmans) in the quaint little town of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. We thought we’d be stopping for a rest and a bite to eat – unbeknownst to us, we were in store for much more. Getting off of the bus, I notice that it actually turned out to be a relatively nice day; it was sunny and hot. After going into the grocery store to use the restroom facilities and grab some lunch, we were informed by Gus our bus driver that the bus’ air conditioning unit had stopped working. There was also a problem with the transmission. This is no dis to Gus and Grand Tours of Lockport, NY, because things do happen. Gus and Grand Tours both rock, as you shall see in a minute. We ended up enjoying some sun while waiting for another bus. We had ourselves a nice little picnic on the Wegmans grass with food provided courtesy of Gus. After only about a two-hour delay we are eventually back on our way. All through the bus ride from beginning to end (and even on the way back to Buffalo), Gus was the consummate down-to-earth professional keeping us informed and entertained. Word was sent to the folks at NPA (National People’s Action) that we would be behind schedule. This meant that we would be missing some of the day’s activities taking place in DC. They understood and they later placed us on speaker phone for a group shout out during a pep rally that was happening in DC. Secondly, for those who thought that what happened to Trayvon Martin was an isolated incident, check this out – when we arrived in Washington, we were told that a man (a black male) from an organization in New York City (G.O.L.E.S or Good Old Lower East Side), Nehemiah Wilson, was profiled and wrongfully arrested. Apparently, DC Metropolitan Police saw him getting off of his group’s bus at the hotel entrance for check-in. They mistook him for someone much shorter than he was. He was dragged from inside the hotel, pepper-sprayed, roughed up, and later charged with resisting arrest. This incident took place before any of the scheduled non-violent demonstrations ever happened. My God, man, was this a sign of more things to come? What else was in store for us? More on this later… We went to DC to take part in NPA’s annual conference. NPA has been one of the organizations nationally that have been leading the charge against big corporate corruption. They have been specifically taking aim at big banks that have enriched themselves at the expense of the poor and working class. Visits were paid to U.S. Secretary of Treasury Tim Geithner, Peter Scher (an executive with JP Morgan Chase Bank), and Ed Demarco (acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency and overseer of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), all of whom have homes in the Washington, DC, area. Like many of the previous non-violent NPA demonstrations, a crowd of a thousand people or more converged on the doorsteps of these men, unannounced. Testimonies were given and proclamations declared. The point was made that America wants an investigation into the 2008 financial crisis, a financial transfer tax on multi-million dollar transactions, and bankers to step down from regulatory bodies that are supposed to regulate the banking industry. Going back to Nehemiah for a second, a rally was held in his honor outside the Metropolitan Police headquarters in DC. Before I proceed further, it must be mentioned that this was an unplanned event. Organizers from different NPA affiliated groups including PUSH Buffalo literally put this event together overnight. A petition was put together shortly after his arrest and hundreds of signatures were received in his defense. Nehemiah gave a fiery and impassioned speech in front of Metropolitan Police headquarters. A powerful spoken word poem was read. Cariol Horne of PUSH Buffalo also spoke. For those not in the know, Cariol is the ex-Buffalo Police officer who was fired in 2008 for having the guts to stop one of her fellow officers from exercising police brutality on an already restrained man back here in Buffalo. After the rally, the large crowd marched across the street to the district attorney’s office to hand over the petitions and demand that the bogus charges against Nehemiah be immediately dropped. After about ten minutes, someone from the DA’s office came out and received the signatures. Oh, and I almost forgot to tell you that PUSH Buffalo won an award from NPA for the member organization who brought the most people to the conference. I told you that we had no idea of what was in store for us. We went to DC to try and stop government officials from giving away the store to big banks, to store more away for the poor and working class. In the process, we ended up keeping police from storing one of our own inside a jail. But, we made it back in one piece and the world just might be closer to being that much better after what we did. So I guess it was all meant to be.