The Millionaires March on Tuesday, October 12th began with a very different feeling than the other large events that have occurred in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. The first thing I noticed upon arriving in Grand Army Plaza, on 59th Street and 5th Avenue, was the swarm of press. At first there were more press than protesters. They seemed to be interviewing anyone with a sign, competing for the few protesters available. I had heard there would be speakers at noon, the march itself to begin at 12:30 and go on to visit the Park and 5th Avenue homes of various CEOs and hedge fund managers in protest of the December 31st expiration of the New York State 2% “millionaires tax”.
In fact the noon gathering was, indeed, a press conference. This had something to do with some march organizers being professional Democratic political strategists . I don’t mean that as a pejorative, but there was a slickness to the event I was not accustomed to from my trips to Zuccotti Park and the marches in Foley Square and Washington Square Park. And so, as a press conference goes, when the speakers finally began, the cameramen and reporters pushed to the front making it difficult to see and hear and separating the protesters from the very people who should have been getting them fired up. As the march started moving cameramen trying to get shots were walking backwards all through the crowd and people were being pulled to the side for interviews. It was a little hard to get into the spirit of the thing.
Once we got going things started to improve. I couldn’t tell how many were there, maybe a few hundred, but enough to make the intended statement. And with all the press coverage we may as well have been a few thousand. A lot of people seemed to have come by themselves, getting to know each other along the walk. There was a marching band, which always gets people in the mood. The best part was walking up Park Avenue being greeted by the uniformed doormen, one of whom joked, ”I don’t really work here. This is my Halloween Costume!” Others shut the doors and waited until we passed. Many contractors working in the apartments above us leaned out of windows and waved as we went by. One woman stuck her head out a window and hurled some curses at us.
The march stopped at the homes, really outside the buildings, of prominent billionaires Rupert Murdoch, David Koch, Howard Milstein, Jamie Dimon and John Paulson, who are in favor of the tax cut. The march organizers left big fake checks, a la Publishers Clearinghouse, made out to the 1% from the 99% in the amount of $5 billion representative of the upcoming tax boon they will receive. I’m sure Paulson is looking forward to it as he found himself in the position of apologizing to investors this week after his main hedge fund lost nearly 50%.
City officials had promised that as long as we stayed out of the street and did not block traffic there would be no problem with the police, and that seemed to be true, though they were out in force. About every five blocks the level of law enforcement increased. At first they were in blue rugby shirts with “Community Outreach” on the back and police patches on the arm, then there were the white shirts, then the navy uniform, then the State Troopers and the always intimidating men in dark suits with earpieces. Police vans for arrestees stood at the ready in case of trouble, but there was none.
All in all it turned out to be a good day on the Upper East Side, if not the most inspiring.