Chattanooga Organized for Action rallies at Miller Park for jobs, wages and education

Chattanooga Organized for Action rallies at Miller Park for jobs, wages and education

October 30th, 2011 by Andrew Pantazi in News

Portraying "Chucky" Fleischmann, Mark Gilliland performs a monologue criticizing his platform during a rally by a coalition of community activists, labor unions, student associations and immigration advocates Saturday at Miller Park.

Photo by Jenna Walker/Times Free Press.

Chattanooga Police Officer Eric Milchak stands with his son, Eric Jr., during a rally by Mark Gilliland performs a monologue as "Chucky" Fleischmann criticizing his platform during a rally by a coalition of community activists, labor unions, student associations and immigration advocates Saturday at Miller Plaza. Protesters spent hours addressing issues to the crowd that they wished to see addressed by local and federal government.

Photo by Jenna Walker/Times Free Press.

Dominique Pennington, right, signs a petition regarding the Normal Park school zoning as Rhiannon Maynard, left, watches during the rally by a coalition of community activists, labor unions, student associations and immigration advocates Saturday at Miller Plaza. Protesters spent hours addressing issues to the crowd that they wished to see addressed by local and federal government.

Photo by Jenna Walker/Times Free Press.

Sam Mills holds up a flag that reads "People before Profit" during a rally saturday by a coalition of community activists, labor unions, student associations and immigration advocates Saturday at Miller Plaza. Protesters spent hours addressing issues to the crowd that they wished to see addressed by local and federal government.

Photo by Jenna Walker/Times Free Press.

Wearing a "Chucky" mask and standing behind an American flag, a man on stage at Miller Park on Saturday pretended he was U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, accepting fake dollar bills while saying America must forgive corporations. ("Corporations are people, too," the man reasoned.)

In front of the stage, a 50-year-old union electrician wearing a Marine Corps cap and overalls shouted back at the fake Fleischmann.

"Double boo!" Dana Barnett yelled.

Barnett brought the flag to Chattanooga Organized for Action's Rally for Good Jobs, Living Wages and Public Education.

Barnett said he received the flag when it draped his brother's coffin. He didn't want to keep the flag locked away in a box, so he brought it with him to the rally.

He said he came because he is sick of Wall Street and politicians "gambling with America's money."

"You see that person lying on the side of this hill?" he said, gesturing toward a sleeping homeless man. "There's no excuse for that in this country."

So Barnett came to Miller Plaza to join the hundred or so other men and women who waved signs and listened to speakers at the rally. Speakers included representatives from the Chattanooga Area Labor Council, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, the Dogwood Manor Resident Council and the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Barnett said his family has lived in Chattanooga since the early 1800s, and he said he grew up poor. After his Air Force veteran dad died, his stepfather began gambling the family's money away on barroom poker machines.

He and his brother, both teenagers, stood up to their stepfather and persuaded their mom to take him off the family bank account.

This is what needs to happen to Wall Street and the government, Barnett said.

"We've given, and we've given and we've given some more. And then they said, 'We're going out of business,' so we've given even more.

"I'm tired of corporate America running us over."

At the start of the rally, the Rev. Leroy Griffith of the Renaissance Presbyterian Church prayed.

"Unite us in the bonds of love and fellowship," Griffith said. "Through our struggle and confusion, guide us so that together we may build a loving community in this place that will be a benefit for all."

Teletha McJunkin, a woman in Occupy Chattanooga's media working group, urged rally participants to join Occupy Chattanooga supporters when they attend Tuesday night's Chattanooga City Council meeting.

After the council meeting, McJunkin said, Occupy Chattanooga members will start actually occupying the city by camping out and protesting.

Occupy Chattanooga representatives tried to obtain a permit from the city's parks and recreation department, she said. They were told that because the city has a curfew, permits weren't possible.

But Occupy Chattanooga members intend to camp anyway, McJunkin said.

Barnett said he would join Occupy Chattanooga if he weren't busy at work.

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