The morning dawned bright and clear and without the excessive humidity that has cupped us all in the sweaty palm of the city during the past few days. Birds sang cheerfully and cicadas buzzed from trees in Central Park and a cooling breeze tickled streets and avenues throughout Manhattan. Unexpectedly, this delightful day was perfect for a protest.
To celebrate the first day of my 13th month of unrelenting rejection for employment both by the academic and research communities and by the general job market, I went protesting. I was one of many thousands who formed a 3 mile long symbolic unemployment line that stretched from Wall Street to Madison Square Garden, where I was located. We stood silently in single-file, holding a neon pink piece of paper in our hands that stated "The next pink slip might be yours!" We glowed garishly, visible for many blocks.
Most of us were unemployed or soon to be so (as I am) while others stood with us in solidarity. After enduring months of isolation and crushing worry, it felt odd to be surrounded by so many other people who shared the same terrible situation. I wanted to ask them how they are doing, how they are coping, how they pay their bills after their six months of unemployment insurance runs out.
But I never got the chance because after only 16 minutes of holding our pink slips overhead, our little protest was over and we dispersed. Because we were so quiet and orderly, and because we cleaned up after ourselves before we left, I assumed we had not been noticed in the vast smorgasbord of protests in New York City, but I was wrong. Our protest was the lead news story today on the radio, and supposedly CNN has devoted a fair amount of TV coverage to it (although I wouldn't know because I don't have a TV). Perhaps it was the stark contrast we presented with yesterday's protests that turned ugly, leaving somewhere between eight hundred and one thousand people detained by police in a filthy warehouse on Pier 57, cut off from their lawyers, families and everyone else. But regardless of why we were noticed, the unemployment situation was the topic of the day and for that reason alone, this seemingly simple act of protest was worth it.
tags: unemployment, protest
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