Jesse Jackson Speaks Out for Occupy Cincinnati

Cincinnati’s Occupy movement may be small, but it drew a high profile supporter. Jesse Jackson was in town for a conference, but he carved out some time in his day to visit Piatt Park, the home of Occupy Cincinnati. He arrived at about noon and spoke to a small but growing crowd that included singing star Justin Jeffre. Jackson spoke briefly, answered questions and shook a few hands before leaving the park.

Jackson spoke against a background of jackhammers and construction equipment and those in attendance hung on every word. His speech was brief but covered a lot of ground. First he explained his thoughts on “Occupy,” saying it won’t go away.

“Occupy is people who lost their homes to foreclosure, sub-prime loans and predatory lenders…” he said. He talked about laid off postal workers and teachers and America building “…first-class jails and second-class schools.”

The protestors were “…standing in the great tradition of Martin Luther King,” Jackson said. He mentioned Gandhi as well and spoke of past occupations for public accommodations and the right to vote.

“We all look just alike in the dark,” he said. “It’s not just about black and white. It’s about wrong or right.” Jackson made his speech local and personal when he included remarks about Ohio’s failed attempt to eliminate collective bargaining. He criticized how the state closed easy access to voting by cutting out three voting days.

Toward the end of Jackson’s speech, the crowd fell back to some Occupy traditions. He spoke, and in response they repeated every word. He talked about being consistent, non-violent, disciplined and focused in order to succeed. He called for those facing foreclosure, students who couldn’t pay their loans and people without health care to “…come on down.” Jackson ended with one of his longstanding chants: “Keep hope alive.”

Singer and Cincinnati Beacon publisher Justin Jeffre was just as excited by Jackson’s visit as anyone in the crowd. He’s a fixture of the Occupy Cincinnati movement and made national news when he was arrested on Fountain Square. Jeffre feels people in the media don’t see Cincinnati’s Occupy movement as a national story.

“When Reverend Jesse Jackson shows up, it sends a message to the community,” he said.

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