Back in December, Occupy LA put out the call for a general strike on May 1st 2012. The points of unity were: immigrant rights, economic, social and environmental justice. For labor rights, peace, civil liberties and ending the police state. For housing, education and healthcare as human rights, and for women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and gender equity.
As participants with Healthcare for the 99%, we knew we wanted to be involved and promote the right to health message. The initial idea was to hold a forum, a people’s movement assembly of sorts, and have people speak-out about the atrocities of our healthcare system & share personal stories. Months passed, weekly meetings convened, coalitions were formed, then disbanded, and May was approaching fast. Finally, plans from OLA were consensed upon to have a “Four Winds” people powered bike/ car caravan starting from various points throughout the city. The North, coming in from San Fernando Valley, the West, beginning in Santa Monica, the South, originating from Cal Sate Dominguez Hills then heading up Central Avenue, and from the East beginning at the intersection of Cesar Chavez and Atlantic Blvd where an unarmed young man named Steven Rodriguez was gunned down by police a few months prior. The idea was that all winds would converge upon downtown around 2 p.m. at Main & 6th Street, then join the Southern California Immigration Coalition march at 4 p.m. and end the day with a bi-lingual General Assembly in Pershing Square.
Various stops on the East wind caravan were identified as rally points to support the issues highlighted within the General Strike call, including police brutality/state repression, and education and healthcare as human rights. Single payer activists were asked to participate with the event at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights, the third stop on the east wind and the rally point focused on healthcare justice. We answered the call, and thus planning began furiously. With the work of dedicated volunteers and activists we pulled off arguably one of the most diverse, grass-roots, inclusive and collaborative healthcare events in recent time. Labor United for Universal Healthcare & Healthcare for All –San Fernando Valley took the lead, and volunteers from Single Payer Now, CA-One Care, PNHP, CAHPSA and CNA joined. Labor United was asked to bring our famous puppets for a show at the plaza, and with collaboration from CA One Care, HCA– SFV, Occupy Skid Row/ LA CAN, OLA East wind, and Single Payer NOW, the show went off with a bang! Featuring a lively new cast and a few veterans, they performed three shows in 2 hours, in between live mariachi sets, and speakers representing community organizations. We also sponsored a health fair, which offered information and resources provided by Planned Parenthood LA, USC School of Dentistry, Jardin Abundancia, Alta Med and Clinica Romero, not to mention volunteer nurses and nursing students who were present to do blood pressure, and blood sugar testing. Bienestar came out with their mobile unit to do on the spot HIV tests. A patient/activist with Healthy Way LA was there to provide information about the county program and how to enroll. We had tables with information about the need for single payer, and also about services & resources available in the community for people who need them. We made every effort possible for the event, speakers and materials to be in both English and in Spanish, which we very successful with.
There were speakers from National Brown Berets, California Health Professional Student Alliance, Bienestar (HIV testing & education), County and Community Health Empowerment (C+CHE), Physicians for a National Health Program, International Workers of the World, IATSE Local 44, and Single Payer Now. Our sound engineer, who donated his time and equipment to produce the event, spoke about his difficulty accessing care, and his family’s struggle with the high cost of medical care, even though they have insurance. We opened up the stage for anyone who wanted to come up and voice a grievance about the horrors of the US healthcare “system”. We consciously created an open, safe space for such dialogue, and it is my sincere hope that this type of event is the first of many in collaboration with our friends and community partners, volunteers, Occupy LA, and single payer activists in Los Angeles. We are very proud of our work, and of our commitment to the Occupy principles of solidarity, and to growing these important relationships. We celebrate the contributions of individuals & workers and principals for social and economic justice not only on May Day, but everyday. I invite you to join us. We are the 99%.
-“The People united will never be defeated”.