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Unions, Democrats seek momentum from 'Occupy Wall Street' movement

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:31 PM EDT, Wed October 5, 2011
The
The "Occupy Wall Street" movement has spread from New York City to Chicago to Los Angeles, pictured here, and beyond.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Union leaders and others hold a Capitol Hill rally against budget cuts
  • Liberal political activists are trying to capitalize on the "Occupy Wall Street" movement
  • One congressional Democrat insists they are not trying to create a liberal tea party

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Several hundred union and other progressive activists sought to capitalize on the growing "Occupy Wall Street" protests Wednesday, holding a rally on Capitol Hill to demand new public spending on job creation and an end to federal budget cuts.

The rally, led by former White House clean energy adviser Van Jones, highlighted growing liberal frustration with a public policy agenda increasingly dominated by deficit reduction efforts as opposed to more traditional economic stimulus measures.

A number of progressive Democrats are hoping to use the growing protests on Wall Street and elsewhere to energize the party's base in advance of the 2012 elections.

They are also hoping to build new momentum for President Barack Obama's stalled $447 billion jobs bill.

Jobs bill sparks tense Senate exchange

"The progressive movement is on the upswing," declared Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota. "We are not going to stop. We are going to get the justice we deserve."

The boisterous crowd responded with a series of chants, including "What's disgusting? Union busting!" and "Hey hey, ho ho, Speaker Boehner's got to go."

Linda Evans, an unemployed home health care provider from Washington, pleaded for Congress to do more to reduce unemployment.

"I come from a proud family. I'm a proud woman," she said. "I want to make a difference. ... Give us a chance. Fight for us. We're the ones who put you in office."

Mahlon Mitchell, head of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin, complained that "we see Wall Street flourishing right now" while other Americans continue to struggle with the economic downturn.

"They got us into this mess. I say it's their job to get us out of this mess. ... It's time for us to stand up," he said.

The "real problem," he asserted, is the "deregulation of banking" and Wall Street.

Overheard: Banks not getting the message

Mitchell mocked GOP attempts to call the wealthiest Americans "job creators" who would be forced to lay off more workers if their taxes are increased.

In the past, he said, "we called (these people) robber barons."

"We didn't start this fight," Mitchell declared. "But it's the fight they want (and) it's the fight they're going to get."

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona, insisted liberal leaders are not trying to create a counterweight to the conservative economic populism of the tea party.

"This is not an answer to the tea party," he asserted. "This is not about hate. This is not about fear. This is not about division." It's an effort to "restore democracy to this nation."

"We are going to fundamentally change the political culture of this nation," he said.

CNN's Alan Silverleib and Paul Courson contributed to this report

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