Occupy Wall Street supporters are gearing up for spring training. They say they will teach thousands of people to lead nonviolent protests aimed at reinvigorating the movement against economic inequality.
The effort, dubbed 99 Percent Spring, includes sessions in 48 states from April 9 to 15.
"People are really suffering and feel like they've been walked over," said George Goehl, executive director of the National People's Action. "This spring, they're going to stand up and more directly expose the crisis that most Americans are facing and bring it to those who created it."
A cross-section of the country — from carpenters and stay-at-home moms to business people, students and farmers — has signed up for hundreds of sessions organized by more than 60 activist groups and the nation's largest unions.
A key issue is the power of corporations over working-class Americans, said Goehl, whose Chicago-based National People's Action represents a network of grassroots groups.
Forty companies will be targeted, with activists showing up and trying to block annual shareholder meetings. The biggest such action is planned for the Bank of America meeting in Charlotte, N.C., a month before the Democratic National Convention starts there.
Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, says his union will train at least 2,000 members to emulate the nonviolent methods of U.S. farm worker and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez and Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi.
He said American workers have lost much of their bargaining rights — a problem first highlighted last year in Wisconsin, where tens of thousands of workers demonstrated against proposed legislation to limit collective bargaining.
"We have to be in the streets, not only at the ballot box," said Cohen, the Washington-based labor leader whose union represents about 700,000 workers.
The training will make the difference between "protesting and putting your fist in the air and actually engaging in true nonviolence by disobeying and risking arrest," Goehl said. "That's what is needed now, because our message has not broken through, especially when it comes to communities of color, where the crisis is so bad that there's a need to shine a light on it."
In a separate action, Occupy supporters say they are planning a May 1 general strike. The movement started last Sept. 17.