The long-overdue “occupation” of Wall Street began 23 days ago on September 17th. As it enters its fourth week, there is no sign that the occupation is slowing down. In fact, as of this writing, there are currently “Occupy Together” Meet-ups in 1,112 cities across the US with 83 confirmed occupations across the world.
This week saw significant representation by progressive doctors in the protests on Wednesday, October 5 and Saturday October 8. Many of us were associated either with the Physicians for a National Health Program, the National Physicians Alliance or a Bronx-based residency program in social medicine. [There were far more nurses at the protest largely because far more nurses are unionized.] Here are some pictures and video clips highlighting a protest effort which has come to be called: Doctors for the 99%:
Thursday, October 6:
A gorgeous fall afternoon in New York City. Cameron Paige of New York’s chapter of the National Physician’s Alliance sent out a message early in the day calling on physicians to show up at the afternoon’s rally.
The picture below links to Amy Goodman’s interview with Bronx physicians Dr. Arash Nafisi and Magni Hansel.
Also present on Thursday was one of our local hip hop duos, Rebel Diaz, offering a Bronx-style take on the protests for Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Some 1,000 protesters moved from Zucotti Park in lower Manhattan to Washington Square Park. Here is the ABC report about the move. It includes a brief interview with Bronx family physician Dr. Daniel O’Connell:
Questions from Reporters (and various answers):
Why are doctors coming to this demonstration?
We are here to express our solidarity with this demonstration, this overwhelmingly peaceful demonstration.
We are here because our patients can’t get access to health care. They can’t afford their medications. And they can’t care for their health if they don’t have insurance and if they don’t have jobs.
Right now there are over 50 million people without health insurance in the United States. Medical costs are a leading cause of personal bankruptcy. Even with the new health care law, we will still have 21 million people without health insurance in 2019.
Health care should be a human right and everyone should have it.
What does Wall Street have to do with health?
There are great income disparities here in New York City. The mean income in the Bronx, it’s $17,000 a year. Here in Manhattan, it’s $64,000 a year. And how much money do the people in these buildings around us make?
These people here need to pay their fair share of taxes and obey the law.
If the economy is not good, people will not be healthy. Our patients need good jobs and benefits.
What is going to happen to these protests?
No one knows the answer. And, of course, the groups leading the protest is inexperienced and not sure what it wants. But this just reflects a political context where only the most conservative, pro-business ideas are allowed to be discussed in the media and in the political world. If progressive ideas are excluded from public debate, it’s inevitable they will burst forth in some spontaneous form.
The occupation movement is still developing and we will keep readers of the Portal informed about local participation by health care personnel. Readers who would like us to post more materials can either email me (see below) are post a comment.
It is good that we have two strong local organizations - Physicians for a National Health Program and the National Physicians Alliance - who have spent thankless years organizing progressive doctors. These structures have helped create a cadre of activist physicians who were able to respond to the occupation. If you are not a member of one of these organizations, you should be.
Readers who would like more background on the occupation may consider the following sources:
Democracy Now: October 6, 2011
OccupyTVNY: This provides summaries of some of the days.
Nation reporting by Nathan Schneider.
posted by Matthew Anderson, MD