Boston Protests Bailout Plan - Among Other Things - On Government Center

If you have beef with harsh immigration policies, so-called Wall Street bailouts, or right wing goon supreme Antonin Scalia, then downtown Boston was your liberal Disneyland Wednesday afternoon. From the 4pm Massachusetts Jobs with Justice rally against the bailout plan to the 5pm Moral Voices for Immigration Reform event, there was nary a southpaw cause that went unrepresented.

I initially showed for the Jobs with Justice melee – not because I’m hungry like daily news reporters for human faces to attach to the financial crisis, but because their press release mentioned the insultingly played out “Main Street” cliché five times. I respect peoples’ right to protest measures that they perceive to burden working people with corporate woes, but this sudden slogan-driven populism eerily reminds me of the reflexive blue state pacifism that followed 9/11. At the time, few people knew exactly why we should avoid conflict in Iraq, but virtually everyone was certain we should stay out. Maybe history will prove that in this case – as it has with our military quagmire – that the lefty sheeple were indeed correct. But until that verdict drops it’s unbearable to watch them picket what they barely know about.

That said; Jobs with Justice Executive Director Russ Davis brought an honorable message, telling the few dozen protesters that they shouldn’t blindly bite the bailout bill just because Capitol Hill power brokers are rushing through the process. He was simply there to convince working folks that they shouldn’t settle, and to remind them that their pressure helped stall legislative progress so far. Even though he thanked congressmen Lynch, Tierney and Delahunt for helping block the bailout plan, Davis displayed no grudge against Barney Frank for ushering the bill through the House of Representatives, where it was ultimately defeated.  

Other Jobs with Justice headliners included the Raging Grannies, who performed a cute new number titled “No Stinking Bailout for Wall Street Bums,” as well as a bishop with a hot pink yarmulke, and former Green Rainbow Party gubernatorial hopeful Grace Ross, who unleashed a torrent of “Bail Out Main Street” rants (I’m assuming she’s not referring to Main Street in Newton, East Hampton, Bel-Air or Lake Forest). Ross also pitched one of those harsh accusations that I would bet a toe is inaccurate: “There’s not a single economist who thinks this plan would be effective,” she said. 

With a half-hour to kill before the immigration reform protest, I stepped toward Quincy Market for a corn dog when I noticed a gang of rich folks and well-dressed yuppies standing outside the Great Hall. Playing reporter, I approached a cute girl guarding the entrance, which she told me was restricted to those with invitations. What she didn’t inform me of – and which I soon after learned from a woman mounting what appeared to be a solo protest – was that Supreme Court Justice Scalia was scheduled to deliver a speech there. Had I remembered to pay my Federalist Society dues on time – or at least confessed my affection for prehistoric Constitutional interpretations – I might have been invited. But I wasn’t even told what was happening; I suppose she noticed my generic apparel and contrarian perma-scowl and determined that I’m hardly an admirer.

The highlight of the day was the immigration rally, and not just because there was live entertainment other than non-profit prophets and leftover hippies. A guitar-strumming woman sang heartfelt songs about rednecks and law enforcement agents who terrorize immigrants, while a few hundred supporters held signs representing everything from Bikes Not Bombs to the SEIU. Obama buttons were mandatory; if I had five bucks for every piece of Barack flare pinned on someone’s hat, I might be able to bail out Wall Street – and Main Street – by myself.

The central message that came from immigration reformers is an important one: There must be a moratorium set on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (better known as I.C.E.) operations such as this past year’s raid at the Michael Bianco Inc. factory in New Bedford, where 300 federal agents detained more than 300 illegal workers and separated many from their families by relocating them to Texas without consulting Governor Patrick. In a powerful moment, Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) Director of Communications Shuya Ohno told savage stories of immigrant mistreatment that could have gotten even the most intolerant Jeff Foxworthy fan choked up. It’s too bad the network and cable news crews packed their microphones and cameras after they got their bailout rally sound bytes.

Lastly, while down there I met William Leonard, the Socialist Workers Party candidate opposing Sonia Chang-Diaz – and Dianne Wilkerson – for the latter’s Second Suffolk State Senate district seat. He’s a hella mild tempered dude who wasn’t hanging out for community brownie points; I bet that Leonard, a full-time meat packer and long-time activist, would have been there regardless of political aspirations. We spoke briefly, and in our short conversation I realized that there are more important issues in his race than Wilkerson’s shady finances. Expect to hear more about him in the coming weeks; Leonard plans to canvass his enormous district as best he can, and I’ll be tailing him under the presumption that voters deserve and desire to hear a third voice in the battle for the Second Suffolk.   

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