Has the economy really gotten so bad that people want to take to the streets and chant bank-busting slogans like "Nationalize, Reorganize, Decentralize"? We'll find out on April 11, when the Massachusetts-based group A New Way Forward (www.anewwayforward.org) tries to pull off protests in more than two dozen American cities—including one here in Seattle at 11:00 a.m. in Victor Steinbrueck Park, 2001 Western Avenue—to decry the behavior of the nation's giant banking concerns and their recent treatment by the federal government, which protest organizers feel has been way too gentle.
"We need to break up the banks and sell them back to the private sector," said Chris Nuckols, 23, who works for an online phone company in Queen Anne and will be participating in the Seattle protest. Nuckols is mad about the series of multimillion-dollar bailouts to huge banks in the wake of the subprime mortgage mess, and he hopes to be joined by hundreds of like-minded people at the Seattle rally.
Danny Shaw, 27, one of the Massachusetts-based organizers, said one aim of the protests is to give the Obama administration political cover to get tougher on the banks at a time when any moves toward nationalization—a step that a number of leading economists think is the right one—would lead to charges by right-wingers that Obama is a socialist. "There's so much propaganda about socialism and all that stuff," Shaw said. "It's ridiculous."
The model for the April 11 protests will be similar to the nationwide day of protest last fall against the passage of California's gay-marriage-banning Proposition 8. Using simple web organizing strategies, the Prop 8 protesters pulled off simultaneous protests around the nation on November 15—including a giant march from Seattle's Volunteer Park to Westlake Plaza that drew an estimated 10,000 people—and got quite a bit of media attention as a result. A New Way Forward has somewhat smaller ambitions: Shaw believes the largest protests on April 11 will be in Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C., and he hopes that each of those events draws 1,000 people.
Bank protests are a somewhat difficult sell. "Nationalize, Reorganize, Decentralize" isn't exactly the simple, standard lefty protest cry of "No War" or "Save the Dolphins" or "Gay Marriage Now." On top of that, the ideas behind "Nationalize, Reorganize, Decentralize" are complex and probably unfamiliar to even the average populist that the group is hoping to get out into the streets.
Shaw says the movement—which only began organizing in mid-March—is nevertheless gaining momentum. "There's a lot of anger, across party lines in the country, about the bailouts," he said. "The left really has an idea for what should change."