The Occupy Wall Street movement that began almost a month ago with a few dozen people camping out in Zucotti Park downtown took their protests to the Upper East Side today. Convening at the southeast corner of Central Park, several hundred people turned out for what organizers were calling a “billionaires walking tour,” marching up Fifth Avenue to visit the homes of prominent wealthy residents. The group first stopped at 834 Park Avenue, chanting for News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch to “come out and face the people [he] left out.” The group also planned to pay visits to the Upper East Side homes of David Koch, an executive vice-president of Koch Industries who has supported conservative causes, hedge fund manager John Paulson, real estate developer Howard Millstein, and Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase.
While the group anger was outwardly directed at the billionaires themselves, many individuals participating in the march said that they want the government to hold the wealthy accountable for paying their fair share. Many were specifically protesting the expiration of the â€œmillionaire"s tax, an income tax surcharge for those making over $200,000 that will expire at the end of this year after Governor Cuomo chose not to renew it. In fiscal year 2011, the tax brought in about $5 billion, which is what prompted several protesters to hoist giant fake checks made out to the billionaires for that amount.
Dave Taylor, 70, recently retired, lives on the Upper West Side and has been making visits down to the Occupy Wall Street camp to lend support and donate medical supplies. He came to the march, holding a sign that read â€œWe are the 99 percent, to express his frustration with recent cuts to services in the city.
â€œI spent ten years building the first housing program in New York for grandparents raising grandchildren, Taylor said. The state funded the program, which also offers counseling and after school programs, but it"s now facing a $300,000 cut, said Tyalor, and he wants the governor to reinstate the millionaire"s tax in order to get back the critical funding for the program and others like it.
Joanna Cole, another Upper West Side resident in her sixties, came with her daughter with a handmade â€œTax Me sign. â€œI think all of us pay too few taxes in the United States, she said, explaining her sign and saying that while not all people should pay higher taxes, she believes that many should. â€œThe highest marginal tax rate should be at least 70 percent, she said. â€œThe more money you make, the easier it is to pay practically nothing in taxes, and that"s just criminal.
â€œI"m here for an equitable tax system, said Joan Sabba, 61, a massage therapist from Brooklyn. â€œThat trickles down to inequality in a lot of different areas.
Not all the marchers were from New York. Ryan Halas, a 24-year-old team building activity facilitator from Asheville, North Carolina, said that he was there to call attention to the fact that the U.S. isn"t doing enough to offset global warming, that the two-party system isn"t giving people enough options, and that power and wealth are unfairly distributed in this country.
â€œWe"re now in this stage where we"re building as much publicity as possible, Halas said.
That goal at least seemed to be attainable; television reporters from Germany, France and many U.S. stations followed the protestors as dozens of print and online reporters surrounded the march, snapping photos and interviewing participants. Protestors ranged in ages â€“ two 18-year-old girls from Brooklyn had cut school for the day to make their voices heard â€“ and in some of their specific demands, but at one point, they all joined in the chant â€œBanks got bailed out, we got sold out in one loud voice.