Union Members, Wall Street Protesters to Converge at Police Plaza

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Protest signs line a sidewalk in the Wall Street area.

Labor activists and members of the Occupy Wall Street protests will converge at One Police Plaza Friday evening to protest police tactics, namely the use of pepper-spray against some of the protesters during a march last weekend.

The development comes as a number of large unions are signing on to the protests, now on their 13th day.

Yesterday, members of Transport Workers Union's Local 100, which represents 38,000 MTA workers, agreed to back the protesters with financial support and manpower.

Local 100 President John Samuelsen argues that higher taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers would help offset the job losses of workers in recent years.

The Wall Street protests, he said, are bringing attention to "the great injustice that the wealthiest New Yorkers have received a tax break at the very moment in time when working families in New York are suffering."

The pepper-spraying incident has galvanized support for the protesters, said Alex Vitale, a Brooklyn College sociologist who will be at the Friday's rally on Police Plaza.

"It's turned something that was a fairly small group of people, operating somewhat under the media radar, into something that's getting significant press coverage and a lot of support," he said.

Vitale is one of several members of the executive council of CUNY's Professional Staff Congress — a union of 20,000 faculty and staff — who have signed on to a statement condemning the pepper-spraying of several female protesters last Saturday by Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna. The incident, which was caught on video that subsequently went viral, has prompted an investigation by the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau.

Labor groups will be joining the protesters next Wednesday, as well. A number of labor unions and community organizations will be marching with the protesters from City Hall to Zucotti Park, where the Wall Street protesters are camping out. Executive Director of New York Communities for Change and march organizer Jon Kest said the United Federation of Teachers, the Communications Workers of America, the Transit Workers Union and Service Employees International Union will participate in Wednesday's march.

Kest added Occupy Wall Street had "elevated the issues in a broad way" and would help raise taxes on millionaires.

"I think that it's tapping into something that people all over the country feel, [about] the billions and trillions of dollars, and bailing out the banks, the people that created the economic crisis, I think everyone believes that, all the polling suggests that, yet the debate in Washington and the debate everywhere else is about more tax breaks."