Protestors at CDC blame House Republicans for government shutdown
Ken Watts | 10/8/2013, 9:24 p.m.
Demonstrators outside the Clifton Road campus of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Oct. 8 called on Congress to “Shutdown the shutdown” in DeKalb’s first protest over the federal government’s funding battle. The demonstration staged by the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow-PUSH coalition joined several others in New York, Washington, Chicago and Miami on Tuesday.
Picketers included members of the civil rights organization, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), and a handful of CDC employees in the 30-minute demonstration at the corner of Clifton Road and CDC Parkway.
More than 800,000 federal workers are furloughed, leaving them unable to do their jobs at vital agencies such as the CDC because of the political stalemate in Washington, according to Rainbow-PUSH. The Georgia Department of Labor says there are 97,000 non-military federal employees in the state.
CDC officials say they’ve brought back nearly a full staff of 10 doctors and scientists to monitor a multi-state salmonella outbreak. But other employees such as CDC building supervisor Cedric Andrews remain furloughed.
“It’s all because there are a few people up on Capitol Hill who want to hold the rest of us hostage,” Andrews said in remarks to the demonstrators. “I love the CDC. It’s a great place to work and I’ve been there 37 years. But we’re subject to politics. This is all about the Republicans wanting to kill Obamacare.”
DeKalb state Sen. Gail Davenport, whose District 44 includes South DeKalb, called on the Republican leadership in the the House of Representatives to stand up to the Tea Party faction by putting a continuing resolution to fund the government up for a vote without the Republican amendment that would defund the healthcare law.
“We’re calling on all Georgians and all citizens of the United States to have a long memory come 2014,” Davenport said. “We don’t want you to forget all of the people who are playing games with our lives and with our babies’ lives.”
Protest leaders including Rainbow-PUSH Atlanta’s executive director Janice Mathis, state Rep. Tyrone Brooks and AFGE national vice president Everett Kelly also blamed House Republicans for the shutdown.
“This is the law,” said Kelly, “The Obamacare Act is the law. And they should fund that law. Am I upset? I’m certainly upset and everybody I represent is upset and we’re gonna try and make a difference come election time.”
Mathis said protestors are hoping to encourage public pressure on Congress to bring a continuing resolution to fund the government to the floor of the House for a straight up vote.
“Sometimes you have to talk directly to the American people above the heads of the elected officials,” said Mathis. “Sometimes elected officials don’t understand. They’ve been 'inside the Beltway' [of Washington] for so long they’ve been isolated from the concerns of ordinary people and they forget. So we’re here to remind them.”
Rainbow-PUSH said there may be more demonstrations as the shutdown continues.