Standing Together

Before November’s election, at a rally organized by Transportation Alternatives’ Rider Rebellion campaign, the Reverend Al Sharpton delivered the following speech to hundreds of straphangers sick of suffering fare hikes in silence.

Let me say to you tonight, everyone is running around trying to get your vote. But the question is: Who in Albany is going to vote for the people? Everyone has got slick commercials, but not one commercial explains how we have a state that can find money to build stadiums and developments but can’t find money for people to ride to work and to school every day on mass transit.

So I come to you tonight because I think the Rider Rebellion represents something that is mandatory, for not only whoever is the next governor, but the next legislators too. They want our votes, but they don’t want to commit a vote to us, and I think we need to have a united voice and say, "You want us to vote for you, you commit to vote for us, otherwise we can’t afford to get on a bus or train and vote." We need to say, "We’d love to vote for you! But it costs too much! We’d love to vote for you, but you cut services from us!"

You and I have an opportunity to make that statement. There are few things that can unite progressive forces. This ought to be one of them. Now, one of the things − I want to say this − is that we progressives always get so caught up in our infighting that our enemies win by playing us against each other.

This is an issue we should all be united around, because I’ll tell you something, Wall Street and the business interests, they compete like thieves, but when trouble is ahead, they all come together to protect their common interests. The year before last, when the auto industry was going out of business, you saw an amazing thing: Chrysler, GM and Ford got together to save the auto industry, then they went back to competing. You and I may have different groups, but we need to come together for mass transit funding and for the ending of these cutbacks. We cannot stay away from the train, but we can argue that the train services shouldn’t be cut and that the fares shouldn’t be hiked. We should have the maturity to stand together. So I wanted to come here tonight − and not just send a statement − and say that this is something we ought to be united for, and we ought to press this message before the election and on into the future.

Thank you and God bless.