On Sep 13, as Congress was coming back into session, activists from the Transportation Equity Network and the Gamaliel Foundation stormed the Republican Party’s S Cap st headquarters.
The activists took over a room with an outside door on South Capitol Street where a press conference was scheduled. Many of them were wearing symbolic yellow construction hard hats. The official demand of protest organizers was to pass the Obama jobs bill as a vehicle for transit funding, but several demands were presented that went far beyond that bill.
At one point, protesters went so far as to demand that taxes on the wealthy be raised all the way to the level that would produce a balanced budget! This on top of demands that transit funding be a priority in any jobs bill that eventually passes.
At one point, all the protesters turned towards the painting of former US President Eisenhower, and cited his interstate highway program as an example that should now be applied to transit instead of to more cars. At another point, chants of “more transit, less cars” filled the air.
Finally protesters delivered a giant inflatable hammer to the desk guard, asking that it be passed to House speaker Cantor. The hammer, like the hard hats, is symbolic of construction jobs fixing the deteriorating transit systems throughout the US.
The Metro system here was used as an example. The protest assembled at the Capitol Skyline Hotel at 10th and I sts SW, and had to ride both the Green and the Blue lines with a transfer at L’Enfant Plaza just to get to the Capitol South Metro station, a distance I chose to return on foot to where my bike was locked up. That would have been extremely difficult, however, for those particpants walking with canes or especially for one person in a wheelchair. Metro’s elevators were also a problem for him, causing him and several others to get separated, forcing the entire group to wait until everyone caught up.
It was said during the protest that the Metro ride took four times as long as it should have, and transit advocates are demanding that problems like this be fixed not only in DC but nationally. Surely it would be possible to tax the rich sufficiently to pay for fixing Metro’s problems and those of other transit systems. Those would be small taxes compared to the balanced-budget level also proposed during the same protest.
Nobody was arrested, even the GOP seemed to understand that any aggression against a transit advocacy group with links to the Democratic Party would turn this into a major, major news story with their name on it as an aggressor.
On the other hand, it is interesting that the GOP has become such an obstruction that advocates with the support of the Democrats find it necessary to storm the national headquarters of the Republican Party in order to be heard. I haven’t seen things get to this level between the major parties since Bush vs Gore!