Pig puppet representing corporate America.
Richmond, Virginia’s 9th annual Halloween parade took to the streets last night, not only to celebrate Halloween, but also to mourn the death of a city so many people once loved. Billed as “a funeral for Grace Street,” residents from across the city and metro area gathered in Monroe Park on Halloween night to speak out against the ongoing sale of their city, and especially Grace Street, to corporate America.
Over a hundred people showed up, most of them in typical Halloween costumes. Giant puppets representing Mother Earth, Grace Street, and Corporate America were marched through Monroe Park and Oregon Hill. Fittingly, a hearse was also part of the parade alongside a float resembling a pirate ship. The puppets were used to represent the marriage of Virginia Commonwealth University and corporate America, resulting in the birth of “Cap’n Greed” and the “$$ Blahmart.”
A banner was displayed in route reading “We sold this city. VCU,” in reference to VCU’s claim that they “built this city.” They didn’t. Working-class people from all races, nationalities, and genders built this city in the 20th and 21st Centuries. Slaves built the “old Richmond” in the 19th Century. Now the accomplishments, history, and even livelihoods of so many workers and families are being forgotten, paved over, and sold to mega-corporations.
This year’s parade was dedicated to the memory of Ian Graham, a local photographer, journalist, and activist who passed away in September.
Grace Street (and surrounding streets) was once home to many local shops and bars. Its apartments were also home to locals and students alike (not that they are mutually exclusive). Now VCU, the largest college in town, is working to completely take over Grace Street and bring in big-box stores like Walmart. That isn’t the worst of it. Earlier this year, nearby Monroe Park (a public park) was basically handed over to VCU and representatives of big businesses. And Mayor Jones and City Council have barely tried to cover up their corruption. They have invested taxpayers’ money and resources into private businesses at the expense of public schools and emergency services.
If you ever want to meet the bastard child of corruption, betrayal, and crony capitalism, then come to Richmond. Sadly, Richmond’s story is common in the modern world. Public spaces are rapidly disappearing as once local businesses turn into evil giants or get gobbled up by monsters like Walmart and Altria.
Working people should make all of the decisions in their communities, not rich people, not politicians, and not businesses of any size. Corporations, the wealthy, the political parties, and politicians will all be sent back to Hell with the rest of the ghouls, goblins, and demons. This will happen not by the grace of City Council or the Virginia General Assembly, but by the actions and fighting spirit of workers’ councils and people’s assemblies in the streets and workplaces. Workers built this city, workers make it run, and workers fund it through taxes and bailouts. Richmond, America, and the rest of the world rightfully belongs to regular people, the working-class.