A’int no stoppin us now, we’re on the move!
A’int no stoppin us now, we’re on the groove!
Classic McFadden and Whitehead song
A'int no stoppin us now, we want a job, right now!
A'int no stoppin us now, we want a job, right now!
Chant of demonstrators at the March for Jobs,
proceeding the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In the days leading up to the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania police and military forces prepared for the presence of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors from the countries with the 20 largest economies in the world (including the European Union). During this period, social justice, human rights and environmental groups from all over the US also prepared. The G-20 Summit meant an opportunity to call attention to the devastating effects of the current world economic crisis on the majority of humanity. While the big bankers and corporations would have their seats inside of the summit, the people outside would organize and mobilize, demanding that peoples basic rights to clean food and water, housing, homes, healthcare and a job, be met.
Currently over 1 billion people face undernourishment daily due to lowering wages and increased unemployment worldwide, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. In the United States, unemployment during the month of September increased to 9.8% on average; for the Black community it is 15.4% and for Latinos 12.7% (US Bureau of Labor Statistics). The AFL-CIO estimates that the actual unemployment rate in the US is at least 17%, including people that have given up looking for work, or who are underemployed. But, the G-20 Summit did not discuss solutions to any crises facing humanity. So, the question is, what is the significance of this meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bankers to working, poor and oppressed people?
During the G-20 a number of decisions were made that insure profits, not human rights. These policy decisions, guided by the most powerful imperialist countries present, like the US, Canada and France, included regulatory and “peer review” measures all designed to protect the profits of the banks and the biggest corporations in the world. Also discussed was the role of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF is known around the world for imposing “structural adjustments”- like the creation of “Free Trade Zones” for sweatshops, and forcing debilitating loans upon developing countries looking to improve their services and infrastructures. Under pressure of the developing countries present at the G-20, they decided to increase the voting power of emerging countries in the IMF. But, its basic character will remain the same, and the US will still maintain the upper hand. The G-20 also called for stricter relations on banking activities and limiting pay on banking and financing executives, but major news sources, including the AP have questioned if any regulations will be possible to enforce. In summary, nothing was done to address world-wide poverty and unemployment. Nothing was decided that will change the lives of the majority of people living on the planet.
But, this is just what happened inside of the G-20 meeting. Outside, people marched, picketed, discussed and debated. They demanded jobs, housing and healthcare. They called for an end to imperialist war and freedom for all political prisoners in the US. Together, they shared strategies for organizing and fighting back in the midst of economic devastation.
On September 20, the Sunday before the G-20 began, the Bail Out the People Movement and Rev Thomas E. Smith of Monumental Baptist Church convened a march endorsed by the United Steelworkers and the United Electrical Workers unions. The call of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for a job was revived in the voices of 1,000 people that gathered on “The Hill” that day, in a Black community facing widespread poverty and gentrification. People came from all over the US to join together in the March for Jobs. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Detroit, Cleveland, Akron, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Miami, New York, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Providence, North Carolina, Boston, Tampa, and more had representatives. Speakers at the march and rally included Fred Redmond, United Steelworkers Vice President; a recorded message of support from political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal and a group of people still fighting to return home after leaving New Orleans in the 2006 Hurricane Katrina.
Rosemary Williams from the Minnesota Bailout Coalition, who is currently fighting against foreclosure and eviction, inspired everyone when she said, "We will go back in again, it is not going to stop us, we must resist! We must resist! We cannot stop, we cannot go back!"
Over the next week there were many other actions including a Tent City of workshops and discussions, also organized by the Bail Out the People Movement, and another Tent City focusing on the effects of economic devastation and war on women organized by CODE Pink. On Tuesday September 22, Cindy Sheehan, a prominent US antiwar activist joined a picket on Mellon Bank saying, “"Healthcare, housing, jobs, food, clean water are basic human rights… they are rights for every human being.” On Friday September 25, there was a “Peoples March to the G-20” of 10,000 people, largely youth and students that was organized through the Thomas Merton Center.
As the G-20 representatives scrambled to insure that the rich got richer, people from all over the US were able to take the opportunity to share in common experiences and struggles. A family from Rochester, NY whose bread-winner had just lost their job, talked with a couple from Tampa, FL that had been homeless since facing foreclosure last year. And they could do more then just talk, because people who gathered in Pittsburgh did so in order to take action. Action to organize for basic rights, action to unite, and action to fight back. If the G-20 is considered a “forum for international economic cooperation” then organizing during it is a forum for the international struggle.
At a time when all over the globe, social movements are up in arms, workers are striking, and entire countries are forming networks of cooperation beyond the US imperialist model it is important that we, as people in the US and Canada, don't remain silent. Actions at the G-20 are just a first step. Building a movement against the war at home and abroad during this time of economic destruction is what we have to do. In Canada there are constant cutbacks to services: healthcare, education, women’s services and childcare, rising tuition. There is also a sharply increasing military budget. The next G-20 is scheduled to take place in Canada in June of 2010, but there is no reason to wait until then to demand basic human rights for all people in Canada, and all people around the world.
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