New York, NY – January 20, 2008. The high temperature in New York City on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was 25° Fahrenheit. But many of the homeless were to be found outdoors, having nowhere else to go. For far too many New Yorkers, Dr. King’s Dream was again deferred by an indifferent government, preoccupied with foreign military adventures. The bitter cold, exacerbated by strong winds, also failed to keep the protesters off the streets. Fed up with corporate wars, union busting and racism, a wide array of activists in NYC spoke out on MLK Day, demanding justice.
Continuing an annual tradition, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) or “Wobblies” marched for jobs and justice on MLK Day. This year they began the day with a picket at Starbucks’ Regional Headquarters on East 33rd Street and 5th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. According to the Union, Starbucks management had refused to pay baristas extra money for working the federal holiday. After a spirited picket, the Wobblies marched, behind colorful banners and flags, to “Wild Edibles” on 3rd Avenue. Along the way the Wobs were accompanied by the Rude Mechanical Orchestra (RMO) which helped keep spirits high in the January deep freeze. According to IWW organizers, Wild Edibles, a seafood retailer/wholesaler, fired employees – targeting immigrants – for union organizing. Accusing Wild Edibles of discrimination and union busting, Union members and their supporters raised voices and fists in a raucous protest. Late in the action the store lawyer ventured out to plead his case with the NYPD and the Wobblies let him hear it. Although police moved to the front of the store, protesters continued their rally until organizers ended the event, vowing “we’ll be back.”
Later in the day, anti-racist activists gathered at 32nd Street and 7th Avenue. An MLK Day rally and March Against Racism drew a large crowd. Nellie Bailey, of the Harlem Tenants Council, and civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart spoke and then the crowd marched up 8th Avenue, halting at the Time Warner building on 59th Street, home of CNN studios. Here they paused to protest the political views of outspoken CNN anchor Lou Dobbs who is characterized by critics as xenophobic. Dobbs, a lifelong Republican who donated to the Bush/Cheney campaign, is known for his attempts to repaint himself as a populist – and for his irresponsible and inflammatory anti-immigration rhetoric. As demonstrators filed into protest pens, Dobbs emerged from the building, flanked by bodyguards, to observe the crowd. He was jeered by protesters and retired quickly with his escort in tow.
NLN reporter Richard Marini contributed to this article.