CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the size of the rally. Thousands of people attended this afternoon’s rally, according to multiple people who attended and other press accounts. Protesters came from multiple locations and then converged near Wall Street.
Thousands of teachers joined elected officials in a symbolic march from City Hall to Wall Street this afternoon to protest Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed budget cuts.
“You took the money from us, now we’re going to where you sent the money,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, who helped lead the march along with national teachers union president Randi Weingarten and half a dozen City Council members.
The march was designed to dramatize the argument that opponents of Bloomberg are making in response to his budget, which calls for laying off more than 4,000 teachers. In a year when Wall Street’s recovery contributed to a citywide surplus, they ask, why are teachers being laid off?
“I never expected to come home to see New York act like Wisconsin,” Weingarten told the screaming crowd.
Bloomberg has blamed the draconian budget on state cuts and pointed out that the surplus this year is not large enough to plug projected gaps next year — an assessment the Independent Budget Office seconded in a recent analysis.
At least half a dozen of the City Council’s 51 members also joined the rally, vowing not to approve Bloomberg’s budget. “We pass the budget, not Bloomberg,” Council Member Charles Barron said. Council members Margaret Chin, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Robert Jackson and Julissa Ferreras were among those who cheered him on.
Council members and the mayor must come to an agreement on a budget for the city by July 1.
The three elected officials who often oppose Bloomberg, and who are all possible mayoral hopefuls — Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and Comptroller John Liu — also attended the rally.
Sharpton’s appearance alongside Weingarten was notable in demonstrating how far the activist reverend has come from the days, not so long ago, when he supported the mayor’s education policies. Lately, Sharpton and Weingarten have been speaking together, revising the “odd couple” duo Sharpton once formed with former schools chancellor Joel Klein.