After a relatively peaceful opening march yesterday, Occupy Wall Street’s second anniversary got slightly rowdier, as State Senator Brad Hoylman and 16 HIV/AIDS activists took part in a planned arrest near the U.N. building on 47th and 2nd. The demonstrators blocked rush-hour traffic and held a banner reading “End AIDS With A Robin Hood Tax.”
So, what’s a Robin Hood tax, and what in the name of anything ever does it have to with AIDS? During the last go-round at Congress, Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota introduced HR 1579, the “Inclusive Prosperity Act of 2013,” which would impose a small tax on the transfer of ownership of every financial trade. Ellison and his co-sponsors say it would generate billions of dollars in additional revenue every year, creating jobs, as well as money for research on medical advances, like the kind needed to cure AIDS, and solving climate change. GovTrack, a site that tracks every bill introduced into Congress, gives it a 1% chance of making it out of committee, where it’s currently stranded, and a zero percent chance of being enacted. So there’s that.
Despite the planned arrests and the improbability of ever actually sticking it to Wall Street, the rest of the march was cheery. Thousands of demonstrators paid a round of visits to agencies and entities they thought needed taxing, including the Park Avenue headquarters of JP Morgan Chase, where a guy in a Robin Hood hat gave a short speech calling them a “dastardly” den of thieves and denouncing their role in the student loan crisis. The New York State Nurses Association had a large contingent in attendance, wearing red bandanas and protesting the wave of threatened hospital closures that hit the city this summer. Compared to the morning’s march, which like many Occupy events skewed younger and whiter, there were noticeably more people of color and older folks in the crowd.
If anything, the mood felt celebratory. An older lady wearing an NY Nurses bandana dashed out into the street and posed briefly next to a motorcycle cop while her friends hooted and snapped a photo. A gentleman in patriotic sunglasses noticed a reporter trying to snap a photo of him.
“Get all these folks!” he shouted, gesturing behind him, at the huge wave of protesters making their way up Madison Avenue. “Don’t just eat half the burger, eat the whole burger!” Wise words for these troubled times.