On Tuesday, protesters from #FreedomPlaza and #occupydc in Washington #occupied the Senate.
In the morning, they #occupied the Senate Hart office building. The Hart office building has an atrium which is a great protest space. Protesters chanted, "End the Wars!"
This demand has widespread support. Sixty-two percent of Americans want U.S. troops out of Afghanistan in two years or less. Seventy Members of the House have written to the debt-reduction Supercommittee, asking it to end the wars as part of its deficit reduction plan. But the Pentagon is planning to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan for another decade or more.
In this Guardian video, you can see that there was no way to be in the Hart building and not know that there was a protest going on demanding that the wars end.
In the afternoon, protesters #occupied the Senate Finance Committee, which was considering three trade deals being pushed by Wall Street: with Colombia, Korea and Panama.
The Senate Finance Committee hearing was broadcast on C-SPAN. There are protester interventions throughout the hearing. At about the 6:30 mark, protesters raise the fact that corporate-driven trade agreements have destroyed jobs in the U.S. and the fact that Colombia is the world leader in killings of trade unionists and are removed from the hearing [and arrested.] Three Senators also raised the issue of killings of trade unionists in Colombia in their remarks; all three voted no on the Colombia agreement: Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland [his remarks begin at 35:20], Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey [23:00 mark], and Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan [19:35 mark]. Senator Menendez noted the Human Rights Watch report that there has been "virtually no progress" in addressing the killings of trade unionists in Colombia.
At the 38 minute mark, Senator Kerry, who voted yes on all three agreements, began speaking. At that point, I challenged some of the remarks that Senator Kerry made. For example, when Kerry argued that Colombian workers would be no better off if the agreement were defeated, I asked why the labor rights provisions couldn't be made a requirement of the agreement. It's hard to make out some of our exchanges on the C-SPAN video unless you turn the volume all the way up. But a Wall Street Journal reporter captured some of my exchange with Kerry:
But the protests that punctuated Tuesday's Senate Finance Committee vote suggested that some lawmakers could pay a price at the voting booths in 2012 when the next elections are held. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) had to put the session on hold while police escorted protesters out of the hearing room -- and even then, the disruptions continued.
Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.) at one point appeared to address the audience directly, saying that "these agreements are fairly one-sided in our favor -- they actually open up markets that are closed to us." He added that "these agreements actually create jobs for Americans."
"That's not what the International Trade Commission said," replied a man who later identified himself as Robert Naiman, policy director for Just Foreign Policy.
"The tariff cuts alone in the U.S.-South Korea trade agreements could increase exports of American goods by $10 billion to $11 billion," Kerry continued.
"What about imports?" replied Naiman, who managed to keep his voice just low enough to avoid being escorted out of the room. Naiman later added: "Workers supported you, Sen. Kerry. Why aren't you listening to workers now?"
It's striking that at this late date, Senator Kerry would still be promoting a corporate-driven trade agreement by claiming that the agreement would create jobs based on an estimate of increased exports, while ignoring the issue of imports. Imports create unemployment as surely as exports create employment, and Senator Kerry knows this. If the net effect of a trade agreement is to increase the trade deficit -- imports grow more than exports -- that's going to increase unemployment, and Senator Kerry knows this.
We haven't ended the wars yet, and we yet haven't stopped Wall Street's trade agenda and replaced it with a trade policy that serves the 99 percent. But we did manage to #occupy the Senate: on Tuesday: Senators couldn't pretend they didn't hear public demands to end the wars and to stop passing Wall Street-driven trade deals.
What could more protesters in more places do?