Note: This was written by Paul Hubbard, Chris Murphy and Jared Paul. It reflects Occupy Providence’s position on the 38 Studios debacle. The die-in represents the destruction of jobs by trickle-down strategies not the workers who lost their jobs.
CHANTING “MONEY for jobs and a decent wage, not for bailouts and 38,” 75 members and supporters of Occupy Providence (OPVD) rallied and marched through the streets of Providence on June 9.
OPVD organized the protest around three demands: No bailout of Wall Street/38 Studios bondholders, tax the rich, and solidarity not austerity, locally, nationally and internationally.
Assembling outside the Rhode Island Convention Center where the liberal blogger conference Netroots was in progress, the crowd heard personal testimony from working people who described how the economic crises and austerity agenda of the 1 percent have impacted their lives.
OPVD then marched several blocks to the former headquarters of 38 Studios, which spoken-word artist Jared Paul, an organizer with OPVD, described as a “crime scene.” Dozens of marchers then laid on the ground and were outlined in chalk as they participated in the great RI Jobs Dead On Arrival “die-in.” The action was designed to dramatize the destruction of good jobs caused by the “trickle-down” policies of the 1 percent and evidenced by the 38 Studios debacle.
38 Studios, a video game company owned by former Red Sox baseball star Curt Schilling, was financed in 2010 with a $75 million loan from the RI Economic Development Corporation (EDC). Gambling on Schilling’s risky start-up with taxpayer funds, the quasi-public agency floated up to $125 million in “moral obligation” bonds on Wall Street to guarantee the deal.
Chris Mastrangelo, an organizer with OPVD, made the analogy of a gambler who goes “on the street” to a loan shark for money to bet on a horse. Schilling, for many years a right-wing proponent of “small government,” was only too happy to accept the EDC loan.
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NOW THAT 38 Studios has collapsed, laid off its entire workforce in three states (700 people) and filed for bankruptcy, the bondholders (sharks) on Wall Street still expect to be paid. Gov. Lincoln Chafee and the Rhode Island Legislature have promised full payment. This will cost Rhode Island’s taxpayers $112 million over the next 10 to 20 years.
Speaking at the die-in, Paul Hubbard of the International Socialist Organization said:
The austerity agenda of Rhode Island’s 1 percent, recently imposed by the governor and the Rhode Island legislature, means massive cuts to education, the developmentally disabled, state worker pensions, public transportation and Rhode Island’s poor. These are the real crimes, crimes perpetrated against Rhode Island’s working families, against the 99 percent, against humanity…Our sisters and brothers in Greece, Egypt, Spain and Quebec have risen up against the austerity agenda of the global 1 percent. Occupy Providence is proud to stand in solidarity with the global 99 percent.
OPVD then marched through the city of Providence to the State House, where dozens of protesters assembled in front of the building’s main entrance. Chalk outlines of dead bodies, representing another crime scene, were drawn on the plaza outside.
Marching back to the convention center, the site of OPVD’s four-day “sidewalk occupation,” dozens of protesters stopped by another crime scene–the tax-exempt Providence Place Mall. Sixty protesters marched through the first floor, chanting, “Tax the rich! Solidarity not austerity!”
Security guards appeared and began assaulting peaceful protesters at the front of the march, physically pushing them toward the middle exit. A large group of protesters easily avoided the guards and continued to the exit at the far end of the mall as planned. There, a “mic check” ensued as OPVD again started chanting.
Security guards called in the Providence police, who detained and handcuffed about a dozen protesters as they attempted to leave. An hour later, all were released after signing agreements to stay off the mall premises for one year.
OPVD then re-assembled and finished the march, returning to cheers from those at the sidewalk occupation as well as bystanders outside the convention center. Speaking to the media, organizer Mariah Burns said, “The police used handcuffs on peaceful protesters simply exercising their rights to assembly and free speech. These tactics were clearly designed to intimidate and were completely unnecessary.”
As the scandal surrounding 38 Studios continues to unfold, OPVD has pledged to continue its struggle for justice and against Wall Street bailouts.