Portrait of a Protest

Taking globalization personally: Nine New Yorkers say what moved them to march on the IMF


Petion Vertilus
Age 56
Resides Mount Vernon, New York
Occupation president of Local 5919, United Steelworkers of America

At Belmont Metal in Brooklyn, machinists like Petion Vertilus make parts for trains, warships, airplanes, and the like, which are shipped all over the world. Many of the workers are Haitian American, and they're concerned about seeing their jobs shipped abroad. Vertilus was never involved in anything political until 1991, when Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the popularly elected president of Haiti, was ousted by military coup and the U.S. government looked the other way. He joined the movement demanding U.S. support for Aristide's return to power. "America always tries to put Haiti down because it's poor," he contends. Recently he's been angered by police killings of unarmed Black men; he believes the acquittal of the officers who shot Amadou Diallo is unjust, and he attended the protests over the shooting death of Patrick Dorismond.

"The people united cannot be divided": D.C. protesters form a human chain.
"The people united cannot be divided": D.C. protesters form a human chain.

Vertilus went to D.C. to urge senators and representatives to vote against opening up trade relations with China. "We have enough people here to do the work," he says, and he's concerned about his and his children's futures. The labor rally on April 12 "was hot"—the Teamsters had brought 10 to 15 trailer trucks with music, and Vertilus wasimpressed with how well organized everything was. He distributed fliers that read "Don't give China a blank check," and the next day he made the rounds to the offices of senators Schumer, Moynihan, Kennedy, and others to leave notes in their mes-sage books saying "vote no to trade with China." "Now, when I feel anything is an injustice and negative," says Vertilus, "I will be there until God will stop me."

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