FUEL THE 99%, THE GREAT DISCONNECT/Albany Trip Recap


November 16th and 17th 2011 were two consecutive days of solidarity and action for the 99% movement. First on November 16th held in downtown Buffalo NY was the "Fuel the 99%, The Great Disconnect" event. Here members of unions, community based organizations, Occupy Buffalo, the working poor, and working folks from many backgrounds, gathered together to add fuel to fire of the 99% to get reconnected with the American dream. On the next day more than 100 people from the above mentioned groups boarded buses to Albany NY (New York's state capital) for simultaneous events. Before members of PUSH Buffalo, VOICE Buffalo, Citizen Action and the National Fuel Accountability Coalition (NFAC) joined in a national day of solidarity with the Occupy America moment (of which Occupy Buffalo is apart) with members of Occupy Albany and Occupy New York in Albany, a visit was paid to the headquarters of The Business Council of New York State (This is the New York state business lobby group of which National Fuel Gas CEO David Smith has just been elected chairman of). Fuel The 99%, The Great Disconnect was held on a chilly morning outside of the offices of the city Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). This office is the home of the local energy assistance program. Here every winter hundreds of people line up outside in the cold to receive help with saving their gas/lights from being shut off, or to get their service reconnected. This year a flair of added emphasis was in the air because the office opened about two weeks later than it normally would have in previous years. The late opening can be owed to the fact that federal money for energy assistance was slashed from the national budget earlier this year. Members of the NFAC had a special treat for those in line and in attendance at the event. The coalition provided hot coffee/cocoa and organized a the first ever hip hop show outside of the HEAP offices in Buffalo ever. The performers who ranged in styles from spoken word, classic hip hop, new school, to R&B delighted the crowd in a dazzling display of artistry regardless of the weather. After the performance portion of the event, about 300 people marched through the streets of downtown Buffalo in early afternoon making a joyful noise. Stops along the march included the local big office of the Bank of America, the downtown offices of National Fuel Gas (the local energy company), and the site of the Occupy Buffalo campers. Marcher's signs and chanting highlighted the disconnect between big corporations and organized labor, big energy companies and weatherization reform, big banks and the average consumer, the 1% and the 99%. The point was made loud and clear; many people in Buffalo/Western New York are serious about doing their part to get reconnected to the American dream. The next day in Albany was action packed from start to finish. Members from groups who attended the previous day's activities boarded buses at about 6am that morning and headed towards the state's capital with quite an agenda. More than100 people from the Buffalo area made it out to join others from across the state in a national Occupy America day of action. In cities across the nation (cities with occupy America movements in them) occupiers joined together to take to the streets to show that the 99% wasn't just all talk and no action. In Albany before taking part in Occupy America activities members of the NFAC (which includes PUSH Buffalo, VOICE Buffalo, Citizen Action, NOAH, and others) occupied the lobby of the offices of the Business Council of New York State. This group is another extension of the lobbying body of the 1% specifically in New York state. Their job is to help make life easier for the 1% (which many times comes at the expense of the 99%). The background information that really makes this lobby visit so interesting is that National Fuel Gas CEO David Smith has recently been elected this group's chairman. To any who may be new to the discussion the NFAC has been fighting mightily to get this energy company to contribute its own dollars (not just misusing public dollars) to weatherization reform in Western New York which covers a large part of the company's service area. About 30 joyous NFAC members piled into the office to peacefully deliver a letter to the lobby group's chairman. Outside of the New York State Business Council office the other marchers from the Occupy Albany encampment met the NFAC group and nearly 1000 marchers in all took to the streets of downtown Albany to make some serious but otherwise peaceful noise. Stops included the grand final stop at the state capitol building where marchers went to the office of New York state governor Andrew Cuomo. Fuel The 99%, The Great Disconnect, Occupy Buffalo, Occupy Albany, and Occupy America is all about increasing the playing field for all citizens of this country. For a long time in this country citizens thought they were playing football on a regulation sized field (100 yards). In recent years we've found out that we have been playing on a 30 yard field. The 99% is fed up with a system that is rigged so that the few on top benefit while the 99% on the bottom fight over crumbs off the table. The fuel for the 99% is making the movement stronger as on the same day mass arrests were made in Occupy America movements throughout the country. From New York City, to Seattle, to places in between reports came in about people being arrested by the hundreds. Power (the 1%) concedes nothing without a struggle and it may be this struggle which defines this generation (the 99%) for the history books. Occupy America, the movement that keeps on moving! A major shout goes out to all the performers and organizations who made both days times to remember: SEIU 1199, AFL CIO, NYSUT, PUSH Buffalo, VOICE Buffalo, NOAH (Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope), Citizen Action, CEJ (Coalition for Economic Justice), Occupy Buffalo, Occupy Albany, Michael Prince, T Brown, Napalm, Missing Link, Ness VVS, Son Child, Pastor Rob, Bankilfe Marketing, and the people of Buffalo/Western New York. Links to media about the event are listed below. WGRZ WIVB Buffalo News Capital Tonight Capitol Confidential PBS