Thursday, August 19, 2010
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Fury over state budget cuts brought downtown Sacramento to a standstill August 18 as a protest at the State Capitol forced officers to shut down nearby streets for several hours, ending in 22 arrests.
The protesters, some in wheelchairs, started marching from the north steps of the State Capitol after 1:30 p.m., angry about cuts proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to in-home health care services. They carried an effigy of the governor holding an ax and wearing a sign reading “Cuts Kill.”
“We are trying to get them to abandon the cuts only budget,” protester Cathy Webster said.
Demonstrators say they were frustrated by the lawmakers’ stalemate over the budget and their inability to fix the state’s $19 billion deficit.
Event coordinator Mary Ignatius said it was intended to remind policymakers “that real people’s lives are at stake” in budget cuts.
The march temporarily clogged downtown Sacramento streets and at least one woman clashed with officers on duty.
Officers say they detained event organizer Jessica Rothaar and issued a total of 22 citations during the demonstration.
Protesters said it was a small price to pay to get their message out.
“The fact that I had to stand in the street with many people in wheel chairs or people who otherwise were disabled, blocking traffic to get the attention of our lawmakers is pretty sad,” said Webster, a protester who was released after being cited.
“There are many people suffering from this budget who will suffer more if we don’t have a just and responsible solution to the state budget,” said Evan Levang of Independent Living Services from Chico.
“I hope people understand that the inconvenience we gave the drivers was so small compared to the message we hope people got,” said Jessica Lehman, a protester who was also arrested and released.
The march forced police to reroute downtown traffic away from l Street. They re-opened the street just before 5 p.m. in time for rush hour traffic.
August 18, 2010
Sacramento police said they had arrested two protesters for resisting arrest, and are trying to persuade other protesters to leave.
The street blockage began about 2:45 p.m.
The civil disobedience was an unplanned offshoot of a Capitol rally and march by a coalition of senior citizen, working parents and disability rights groups, among others, said Mary Ignatius, who helped coordinate the event.
“It’s important for these people to be here because they need to remind our governor and our Legislature that real people’s lives are at stake,” said Ignatius, who said she is from the Health and Human Services Network, a coalition of advocacy groups.
Dozens of people participated in the march and rally, but only a fraction of them opted to risk arrest by blocking L Street.
Ignatius said the civil disobedience will send an urgent message about the desperation that protesters feel about the budget.
“The inconvenient truth is that these drastic cuts are going to hurt these people way more (than arrest),” she said. “And doing civil disobedience is a way to amplify what that really means.”
The protest rally and march featured a 10-foot-tall effigy of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger raising a bloody ax.
Participating groups included the California Foundation of Independent Living Centers, Health Access, United Domestic Workers, California Immigrant Policy Center, California Hunger Action Coalition, Alzheimers Services of the East Bay, and the Alliance of Retired Americans, according to a flier distributed by Ignatius.
Photo by Hector Amezcua