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Thursday, Mar 22, 2012, 7:56 am

Occupy Begins Spring Training

By Allison Kilkenny

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About six months after first setting up camp at Zuccotti Park, protesters returned to the birthplace of Occupy Wall Street and organizers announced via the People's Mic their plans to begin "spring training" for what is anticipated to be a thriving few months of demonstrations.

Dubbed the 99 Percent Spring, the training includes plans to teach thousands of people in 48 states to lead nonviolent protests aimed at reinvigorating the movement against economic inequality, AP reports. 

"People are really suffering and feel like they've been walked over," George Goehl, executive director of the National People's Action, told AP. "This spring, they're going to stand up and more directly expose the crisis that most Americans are facing and bring it to those who created it."

The targets for demonstrations are around 40 companies, with activists planning to disrupt their shareholder meetings. And of course, disrupting activity at Bank of America is one of the central objectives.

Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, told AP his union will train at least 2,000 members to emulate the nonviolent methods of U.S. farm worker and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez and Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi.

He said American workers have lost much of their bargaining rights — a problem first highlighted last year in Wisconsin, where tens of thousands of workers demonstrated against proposed legislation to limit collective bargaining.

"We have to be in the streets, not only at the ballot box," said Cohen, the Washington-based labor leader whose union represents about 700,000 workers.

Occupiers have placed significant importance on May 1's planned "General Strike," when they hope to convince a critical mass of Americans to stay home from work.

Protester Justin Wedes told Gawker that, "a lot of the focus right now is planning for the general strike. That's the big goal now."

But so far unions don't seem ready to play along. 

"It won't happen," Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, flatly told Buzzfeed. “They are not working with the unions in a serious way yet; nor are the unions working with them in a serious way. And it is the wrong strategy.”

Arthur Cheliotes, president of Local 1180, Communications Workers of America, called the May 1 actions a great "concept," but "the reality is very tough."

“We’re public sector workers—we take a day off for a general strike and we’re fined two days’ pay,” Cheliotes told Buzzfeed. “I don’t think my members are inclined to engage in that process.”

The energy of Occupy has definitely surged in the past week with a second occupation emerging at Union Square, which was promptly evicted by the NYPD, lively protests during Occupy's 6-month anniversary during which scores of people were arrested, and a solidarity march last night for Trayvon Martin. (Photo at right by Mario Tama, Getty)

The deadly shooting of Martin, an unarmed teenage, by a self-appointed neighbourhood watch captain inspired a coalition of protesters seeking justice for the Martin family, including members of Occupy Wall Street, to merge in New York.

Martin's family spoke to hundreds of protesters rallied in Union Square.

"My son did not deserve to die," Tracy Martin said after thanking those who participated in a march in the teenager's memory.

No arrests were made during the march, even though at one point protesters stormed Wall Street's iconic bull statue, flattening metal barricades, and two demonstrators climbed the bull and defiantly raised their fists. (photo via @AgentOrchid)

Allison Kilkenny is an In These Times Staff Writer and the co-host of the critically acclaimed radio show Citizen Radio. Her blog for In These Times, Uprising, focuses on efforts around the world to address the global economic crisis.

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