Dr. John Carlos Raises His Fist With Occupy Wall Street

Last night I had the privilege of introducing 1968 Olympian Dr. John Carlos to the General Assembly at Occupy Wall Street. This morning I had the duty of introducing John Carlos to Sen. Chuck Schumer in the MSNBC green room. Both were unforgettable experiences. When Dr. Carlos and I arrived an Occupy Wall Street, it comprised all the ordered chaos you could imagine. People of all backgrounds and ages were packed shoulder to shoulder in Zucotti Park. Police stood at attention, glowering from the outside. Homemade signs ranging from, "Undocumented immigrants are part of the 99%" to "We Remember Troy Davis” to “Tax the Rich!” encircled the square. John Carlos looked at me with that twinkle in his eye and said, "It's great to be home."

With the help of the Occupy Wall Street regulars who invited us to speak, we worked our way to the front of the General Assembly. Here we encountered our first problem: the agenda had been reordered so announcements would come at the end. We would have to wait "two maybe three hours" to give five minutes of greetings. I asked the head of the  facilitation team if John Carlos could skip the three hours and say just a few words. She looked at my quizzically and said, "Who's John Carlos?" I answered, "One of the two men who raised their black-gloved fist at the 1968 Olympics.” I then did a poor-man's impression of the medal stand moment, bowed my head and raised my fist. Her eyebrows raised an inch and then her face lit up. She got it. This was someone born years, possibly decades after 1968, and now she was on a mission to make it happen. The other people on the facilitation team were also excited and they exercised a process point called an "emergency announcement" and John Carlos was able to get on the "People's Mic" and to say a few words. "I am here for you," he said in his raspy voice. Then “I am here for you”  was repeated loudly in successive waves on the "People's Mic", a beautiful moment unto itself, but Dr. Carlos wasn’t done. "Why? Because I am you. We're here 43 years later because there's a fight still to be won. This day is not for us but for our children to come."

The response was electric as people in the crowd pumped their fists and then mobbed us when we got off "stage." The next day, the New York Daily NewsSalon, and Democracy Now all had reports about the curious presence of the 1968 Olympian in Zucotti Park. But talking to the people in the square, the connection is an obvious one and John Carlos made it well: he is them. His boldness, his daring, and his sacrifice in 1968 echo strongly in our struggles today. When we do book events for the John Carlos Story, the crowd is overwhelmingly young. As Carlos said this morning on MSNBC, "I definitely see the connection between then and now. Back then we were fighting the racial struggle. Now it's broader than that because this economy is affecting all of us. The fat cats have had their day. It's past time for the mice to get together." 

As Dr. Carlos and I were leaving the MSNBC studio, we bumped into someone also very familiar with Wall Street, albeit the non-occupied sections, New York Senator Chuck Schumer. I made the introduction, on my best green room behavior, and bit my tongue. Chuck Schumer then looked at John's body up and down and said, You're in great shape! Are you still running?" John paused beautifully and said, "Running for justice." Schumer, perhaps for the first time, was tongue-tied. I would just add that John isn’t “just running for justice,” he's running toward justice; and he has a hell of a lot of company.

7 Reader Comments | Add a comment

A Natural Connection

The same corrupt robber barons that John Carlos was calling out (in Avery Brundage, et al.) in '68 are the descendants of the current day robber barons economically raping the nation and the world.

John Carlos and Tommie Smith were right then and they're right now. Truth crushed to earth will always rise again.

well

I don't think, if ever given the chance to be close to Chuck Schumer, that I could resist spitting in his face.

Wall Street inside "radicals"

Comrade Zirin, Did you recognize any of your old family friends walking into the NYSE or financial firms around Wall Street?

I heard your father worked in finance near Wall Street when you were growing up, and going to private school in Manhattan.

Oh, Tornado

Nice try. But some people rise above. Some people apply their education and knowledge in new ways. Some people figure shit out on their own.

Kapitalism has run its course. An economic system whose success is predicated on unlimited resources is bound to eventually collapse. We might not be there yet, but it will happen.

I'll ask this again. . .

Are you really saying Tornado--Mr. DZ stalker himself--is that there should be only one party rule in the United States? And is the Republican Party the only party that should be allowed to rule? Simple questions there. Do you have the courage to answer them?

Schumer...

what a scum bag. If the corporate pigs end up using massive violence to try to crush the occupy movements, Schumer will defend that violence. He'll defend that violence, just like he defended the Waco massacres. Schumer, Rahm, Barack Obama all corporate whores, just like their political "opponents."
Kapitalism has runs it course. Marx and Jesus were just ahead of their time.
Pay attention Democrats: Occupy America Is Anti-Capitalist. Not Pro Obama!

Matt... Chomsky Nailed It

Matt, you nailed it too. Chomsky described Obama as a marketing ploy, a blank slate where "liberals" wrote anything they wanted on his blank slate - and he being just another whore on the way to kingdom come gladly accepted all-comers... antiwar, universal health care, pro education, anti-NAFTA, all the typical neo-liberal slights of hand. They really believed this guy was some sort of an answer, an honest-to-god agent of change (as if electoral politics ever truly changed anything - remember, power concedes nothing...)

But Chomsky (and many others) understood that Obama is simply a corportist... just another stooge CEO running the Empire. From his ongoing murderous bombings and maiming and drone attacks straight through to the Nobel Peace Prize, calling his behavior Orwellian is a gross understatement.

No doubt, the passionate and concerned folks in Zucotti Park and elsewhere clearly understand this...

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Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to dave@edgeofsports.com.
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