Over 15,000 people marched down the streets of downtown Manhattan today, protesting the risky practices of Wall Street and lobbying for financial reform.
Protected by police barriers, the protestors carried signs that read "hold our banks accountable" and "make Wall Street pay" and chanted lines such as "good jobs now" as they marched from City Hall Park to the heart of New York City's financial district.
"Anybody out there fed up with what [Wall Street is] doing to us? Anybody out there want good jobs now? Anybody out there think that Wall Street ought to pay for the jobs they destroyed?" Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO president, asked a cheering crowd in a rally before the march.
"The bankers and the brokers and big shots on Wall Street must understand that in this country, we're all in this together, we either all rise up or we all fall down together," Trumka said. "So today, we come here…to bring Main Street to Wall Street."
"Our message is this: Wall Street, fix the mess that you made," Trumka declared.
John Kemp, chairman of Brooklyn Congregations United, said that today's march is all about voices being heard and values being changed.
"The voices on Wall Street were heard [by Washington, D.C.] back before 2008 as the financial crisis unfolded," Kemp told the Ecumenical Press. "Now we feel it's time for Washington to hear the voices of the people."
According to Kemp, Wall Street's values of greed and fear must be replaced by more sustainable ones.
"Wall Street is known as working on two motivational factors: greed, fear. Those are not the values that we're looking to promote in today's march," Kemp said. "We need better values, and we need Washington to hear the other side of the argument."
"Financial Reform is needed and it's needed now," he said.
Sponsored by the AFL-CIO, National People's Action, and PICO faith-based network among other groups, Thursday's march is part of a larger, nationwide campaign for financial reform launched this month.
Earlier this week, activists marched to protest annual shareholder meetings for Wells Fargo and Bank of America during demonstrations in San Francisco and Charlotte, N.C., respectively. A second protest against Bank of America was held on Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo. with activists demanding that BofA divest from payday lending.
"The nation's biggest banks crashed the economy, causing over 8 million to lose their jobs, 1 out of every 8 families facing foreclosure, and cities, counties and states teetering on the edge of bankruptcy," a press release from PICO reads. "Now, these same banks are pouring $1.4 million a day into the Senate to stop real Wall Street reform. Ordinary Americans are saying, 'Enough is Enough.'"
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., debate on financial reform began this afternoon in the Senate after three days of delays from Republicans.
The new legislation is expected to enact sweeping reforms on financial institutions, especially those deemed "too big to fail," and will provide protection for "ordinary Americans" against risky lending practices.
President Obama, speaking at the end of a Midwest tour to promote reform, told reporters that he hopes to sign a finalized version of the bill "very soon."
"We'll end up having a safer, more secure financial system," Obama said, according to CBS News, "and I think banks and other financial institutions can get back to making money the old-fashioned way by lending it to companies to build business and create jobs and do all the things we want our financial system to do."