At around noon today, a group of protesters associated with Occupy Sandy arrived at the Women’s National Republican Club on West 51st Street, just in time for a fundraiser ostensibly to benefit the likely presidential campaign of Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).
Bags of garbage slung conspicuously over their backs, clad in yellow and red trash-collectors’ jumpsuits, and joined by survivors of Hurricane Sandy, they demonstrated, pacing back and forth and chanting slogans like “Rand Paul/Come out/We’ve got some trash to talk about.”
The group had gathered in response to remarks Paul recently made about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and federal aid for Hurricane Sandy victims. “They are, ‘Gimme, gimme gimme all my Sandy money,” Paul said of Christie and Representative Peter King (R-NY) at an event last month. “Those are the people who are bankrupting the government and not allowing enough money be left over for national defense.”
ANIMAL asked longtime occupiers Aaron Black and Justin Wedes what they would say to Paul if the senator had come out and spoke to group.
“I would have asked him, ‘Why aren’t you for the people?’,” Black said. “Why are you the corporations stoolie?”
“Sure, he’s not from New York, but his decisions affect what happens here,” he added. “He’s a crook, and that’s why we were there.”
“We wanted to let Rand Paul know that Sandy victims are not the people that are bankrupting our country,” said Wedes, who came to the protest dressed in a suit and tie, holding a sign identifying him as a “Sandy lobbyist.” “The people who are bankrupting our country are the Wall Street fraudsters and banksters, the corporate donors and lobbyists who continue to buy off our politicians, and the politicians themselves like Rand Paul who continue to defund programs that help people not only recover from disasters, but live viable lives and contribute to the economy.”
Though Governor Christie, who enthusiastically rebuked Paul’s comments shortly after the Senator made them, could hardly be described as an Occupy-friendly candidate, both Wedes and Black begrudgingly admire his and other area Republicans’ advocacy for federal aid to Sandy victims.
“I think both Senator Paul and Governor Christie are corrupted, but the fact of the matter is that Christie put an emphasis on getting funding and getting support to Sandy victims,” Wedes said. “Whether you agree with every single allocation he made or not, at least he was committed, as he needed to be in a time of disaster, to helping people.”
“We may not agree with him on things, and I certainly don’t, as a progressive,” agreed Black, “but if we can find common ground on some things, not just with Sandy but other issues, there’s a chance things are going to get better. ”
After the fundraiser ended the protesters gathered in the street, hoping to block the senator’s motorcade and seize one last chance at confronting Paul head on. Eventually, the police intervened, and the cars were allowed to pass.
“When we were in front of his vehicle, we asked him to come out and talk to us. Nobody was banging on the glass. We were right in front of the vehicle, and he just pretended we weren’t there, like he does with the rest of the people in this country,” said Black. “He doesn’t care.”
(Photo: Shay Horse/@HuntedHorse, Video: Yossera Bouchita/ANIMALNewYork, Edit: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)