Hamil R. HarrisNational

Federal Workers March to White House, Plead With Trump to End Shutdown

It was evident from their downcast eyes.

Outrage mixed with panic for several thousand federal workers who marched Thursday to the White House in an appeal to President Trump to end a federal shutdown nearing its fourth week.

The demonstrators converged on the AFL-CIO’s northwest D.C. headquarters at noon for the “Stop the Shutdown” rally, as labor union leaders and Democratic lawmakers called for the president to end the political impasse over border wall funding and return about 800,000 people to their jobs.

“I don’t know how I am going to pay my bills,” Mohasi Mohammed, a security guard at the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum, said while holding a sign reading, “Trump, pay my bills or give us our jobs back.”

Mohasi Mohammed, a security guard at the Smithsonian Institution's Air and Space Museum, participates in a Jan. 10 rally in D.C. against the ongoing federal shutdown. (Hamil R. Harris/The Washington Informer)
Mohasi Mohammed, a security guard at the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum, participates in a Jan. 10 rally in D.C. against the ongoing federal shutdown. (Hamil R. Harris/The Washington Informer)

“Mr. Trump, you want to tell me to be homeless,” Mohammed said. “It makes no sense. I am not going to be homeless, I need my job.”

Busloads of participants from Detroit, Philadelphia and communities along the East Coast filled the intersection of 16th and K streets, as demonstrators with protest signs rallied at the AFL-CIO headquarters before marching to the White House.

While D.C. is a frequent location for mass demonstrations, many of the federal workers on hand clearly were not used to engaging in protest or talking to the media. But their message was unmistakable.

“I want my check. I need my check. I need to get back to work,” said Alison Munger, who works for the U.S. Department of Housing and Community Development in Philadelphia. “If I don’t get my check, my mortgage [company] is going to be calling me, asking, ‘Where is our money?’ … My car people will be calling, … my insurance company will be calling and I have two kids in college.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) were among the numerous speakers at the rally, held hours after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) debated a bill to end the shutdown that went nowhere. 

“I have never seen a president like this, who holds temper tantrums and holds 800,000 people hostage,” J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, told The Informer after addressing the crowd.

Cox said McConnell is simply doing Trump’s bidding.

“We need a simple up-and-down vote and then send the bill to the president,” he said.

Wala Blegay, the lawyer for two D.C.-area nurses’ unions, said she came to Lafayette Square to show solidarity, while Horacio Fenton, 59, a longtime IRS employee from Philadelphia, said he traveled to D.C. because he is fed up with the bureaucratic bickering at workers’ expense.

“I have been through seven shutdowns and I’m tired,” he said.

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Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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One Comment

  1. hat can we do? The rep. are making all American unsafe. Trump does no care. All he wants is his Wall, so he can put his name on it. With his ties to Russia, and learning new terrors each day, I am indeed Scared! We should be able to sue this Traiter for putting all of us in danger. For all our protections being taken away.

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