About 150 protesters led by Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Assemblyman Vito Lopez marched in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement yesterday afternoon, from Borough Hall across the Brooklyn Bridge to Wall Street. This was the first time OWS demonstrators have marched across the bridge since October 1, when more than 700 protestors were arrested for spilling onto the roadway. Yesterday, they crossed the East River peacefully along the bridge’s pedestrian walkway; Lopez’s office had worked closely with the police department and no one was arrested.
The mood was calm—surprisingly so. “We’re too quiet,” one demonstrator remarked. “This doesn’t really feel like a march.” Familiar chants soon followed: “No justice? No peace!” The chanting grew louder as the group made it to Manhattan, where veteran demonstrators from Zuccotti Park joined them, with well-worn picket signs, to march all the way down to Wall Street itself.
Prior to the march, Lopez held a rally on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall with Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, Councilman Steven Levin, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and State Senator Eric Adams, as well as several union leaders and tenant groups. SEIU Local 32BJ, AFSCME, and the Hotel and Motel Trades Council were well represented.
Lopez said that in the next four years the poverty rate in the city is projected to rise to 26 percent. “One in four people in New York will be under the poverty line,” he said. “At the same time, the wealthier people are getting wealthier. Something is going wrong.” (The rhetoric at the rally also included some good old borough bravado: “Brooklyn is in the house… we get things done.”)
The millionaire’s tax was the big issue on the assemblyman’s mind. Aside from that, he said jokingly, “this is the beginning of my attempt to take over the world”—probably in an effort to bait detractors.
Lopez, who has been representing Bushwick and parts of Williamsburg since 1984, now in his twelfth term, found himself at the center of a corruption scandal late last year when federal and city officials began investigating massive earmarks for the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, a non-profit he founded in 1973.
For many reformists, Lopez is the face of corrupt machine-politics, and his involvement in an Occupy Wall Street march surprised some observers. Some suggested that Lopez was trying to use the movement for his own benefit (such as in some pretty priceless comments on the Brooklyn Paper website). Reporter Eli Rosenberg wrote, “The ‘day of solidarity’ is the latest show of support from local Democrats, who have started to embrace, and perhaps try to co-opt, the leaderless movement.”