Dozens of protesters lined the sidewalks on the bridge over the Swannanoa River in Biltmore Village on Thursday evening, Nov. 17, to demand that politicians in Washington focus on jobs and making “Wall Street pay its fair share.” Timed to coincide with rush hour, the protest was located on the bridge to draw attention to what protesters say is “crumbling infrastructure.”
Organized by MoveOn.org, the protest was also meant to show solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell said he was there to support both organizations, identifying himself as “part of the 99 percent.”
“I really, strongly believe that we need a federal jobs program now, to rescue the economy. This particular protest is pointing out that there are thousands — tens of thousands — of under-built bridges in this country,” said Bothwell. “And this one that we’re standing on here was rebuilt as part of the stimulus plan. It wasn’t big enough. We need a bigger stimulus. Now.”
Passing cars honked as protesters waved signs. Police officers watched from afar.
“This is the most exciting time of my life. Since World War II, anyway,” said Robert Nicholson, who identified himself as a retired U.S. Navy captain, and a veteran of World War II, as well as the Korean and Vietnam wars. “We’re finally making a move toward doing something. Now if we can get the Congress off their butts, it’s going to be well worth while.”
Nicholson said he believes the Occupy Wall Street movement will “take hold” and activate Congress.
“We’re not a monstrous crowd,” he said, “but we’re enough to get the message out, I hope.”
Maureen McClure, holding a sign that read “Put Americans Back to Work,” said she was standing on the bridge to “encourage Congress to get the economy going, and create jobs, and raise taxes on the wealthy. We’d like to see revenues raised to close the gap rather than cuts on people that are dependent on human services.”
(photos and report by Max Cooper)