Philly Loves Wisconsin Workers

Workers' rights rally in Philladelphia

This is the workers’ rights rally at Love Park in Philadelphia on Saturday. It is part of a nationwide action to support public workers in Wisconsin. The Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker is trying to take away their collective bargaining rights. Video by Larry Willoughby

Editor’s note: Larry Willoghby went home and reflected on what he saw and heard Saturday. He then offered up this narrative of his thoughts.

Thoughts from the Love Park workers rights rally aka the Please Save the American Dream rally.

It was with some trepidation that I headed out at high noon to Love Park in the City of Brotherly Love on a sunny Saturday. A workers rights rally was being staged. The stated goal of the rally? “To Save the American Dream.” A tough nut to crack that will be. As anyone familiar with Hunter Thompson will tell you that dream wave crashed and died at the end of the sixties. Never to return. Oh you might see the occasional ripple in the water but really it was an illusion – just a passing shark making its presence felt. Real progressive change? Improved workers rights? Not a chance. Not even our great hope Obama could pull that off. He caught the wave and then we watched in horror as he wiped out before our eyes. Well you get the idea. He managed to make some progress but now it will cost us. Time to put the lid on that hope and change thing. It’s bad for business.

The crowd, the energy, the power

Workers' Rights Rally in Philadelphia - Photo By Larry Willoughby

Workers' Rights Rally in Philadelphia - Photo By Larry Willoughby

So needless to say the scene in Love Park on my arrival was quite a shock. The crowd was so large that the organizers were clearly not prepared. They had a single megaphone and no stage. I could hardly see them from the back of the crowd and I am six foot four. The crowd surged around them and I could hear people chanting, “We are one! We are one!” Followed by, “Corporations are not people! Corporations are not people!”

The energy was palpable. I scanned the crowd. Some union folks – check. A few career activists – check. But the rest of the crowd? Clearly people who had never marched or chanted or gathered like this in their lives. Really no overt party affiliations of any kind were evident. Just ordinary folks gathered together. Perhaps not even sure what they could do – they just wanted to help their neighbors and families. To come together in this crisis and help each other and save themselves.

Workers' Rights Rally in Philadelphia - Photo By Larry Willoughby

Workers' Rights Rally in Philadelphia - Photo By Larry Willoughby

Sure there were plenty of union signs but it was not about unions. It was about all workers – their shared pain. Their shared angst about how everything went wrong in the country. The feeling that we all had to stick together or we were all doomed. Truly doomed. Our children left to slave away 80 hours a week. No future. And the coming together did something. You could see the disbelief in their eyes. You could see the startled looks on their faces. Read their thoughts. “This is what democracy feels like. Wow. I love this feeling!” You could feel the power of people coming together. And finally, “Why haven’t we done this before?”

To be frank I got a little choked up and am still in a little bit of shock. The people are being roused from their sleep. It is a wonderful feeling and sometimes words are not enough. Real change does seem to be in the air.

One more thought for those who are in power right now. Who believe that working people of all types will continue to fight with each other instead of banding together for positive change. Who are sure that this will all blow over and everyone will go back in their homes. “Nothing to see here.” After all that is how the world works. Isn’t it? Maybe. But this is Philadelphia. It all started here and we dream big here.

Workers' Rights Rally in Philadelphia - Photo By Larry Willoughby

Workers' Rights Rally in Philadelphia - Photo By Larry Willoughby

Think back to the movie Rocky – hey this is Philadelphia after all. One of Apollo’s men notices Rocky on television He tries to get Apollo to pay attention but Rocky has already been dismissed as a threat. On the screen Rocky can be seen standing in a meat locker pounding on sides of frozen beef over and over again until his hands bleed. He never seems to stop – just keeps on pounding away – with nothing but simple determination on his face. Pounding away hoping and praying for a better life for himself and his family. A simple man who only asks for a fair fight. A chance for redemption. A chance to be somebody.

I saw that look today on the streets of Philadelphia. The people just rang the bell.

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

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