In addition to phone calls and emails to Congress, MoveOn.org and the PCCC worked with other groups to organize events in Congressional districts around the country that they said drew more than 20,000. American Dream Movement members also gathered Thursday on Capitol Hill to demand that Democrats stand their ground against deep spending cuts.
Democratic Members, including Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), urged activists to fight to protect Social Security and other government benefits.
“We believe in a country where after you’ve worked your whole life, you get to retire in the knowledge that your financial and health security will be met,” she said.NPR had a story about both progressive and rightwing response to the default crisis:
NAYLOR: Meanwhile, outside the Capitol, several hundred people turned out for a steamy noonday rally led by an assortment of progressive groups, from Planned Parenthood to MoveOn.org. A procession of Democratic lawmakers and other speakers made clear they were none too happy either with what was going on inside the Capitol.
John Gage, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said Congress had its priorities wrong.
JOHN GAGE: Here we are going into a debt crisis when we really have a jobs crisis.The Nation's media blogger noticed the difference in media coverage over the tiny Tea Party held nearby only a day before compared to the rally we held yesterday:
But then, Thursday’s American Dream rallyorganized by MoveOn, Rebuild the Dream, AFSCME, and AFGE, and featuring speakers like Van Jones, Rep. Keith Ellison, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky --clocked in an estimated 450-500 people (the permit’s limit), according to the coalition. Oddly, though, as of 24 hours later, Politico didn’t mention it. CNN.com, meanwhile, talked up the tea party rally both the day before it took place and afterward--when it spun the measly crowd (and its own pre-event notice) by writing: “Don't be fooled by the tiny turnout at the tea party rally on Capitol Hill Wednesday. The conservative movement doesn't much need rallies anymore. November 2010 changed all of that.”
In Saratoga, New York:In Denver, Colorado:In Lawton, OK:And here is some of the print coverage.In conservative Kingwood, Texas, progressives outnumbered Tea Partiers:
In Winchester, Virginia, protestors stood outside Republican Frank Wolf's local office even though staffers appeared to have hidden in the back of the office:
Protestors in opposition of the U.S. debt-ceiling stalemate are lined upoutside of Congressman Ted Poe’s Kingwood office. By noon Tuesday, around 46 people were lined up outside Poe’s office for a protest and counter-protest.
In downtown Casper, Wyoming, protestors called out Republican Cynthia Lummis for her refusal to look at tax increases on the wealthy:
A group stood holding picket signs expressing their views and demands, which included protection of Medicare and Social Security. One participant noted none of the congressman's aides were in the office when they gathered for about an hour.
Rallygoers in Norwich, Connecticut asked the district director for Democrat Joe Courtney if he would sign on to the CPC letter pledging to defend Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in any budget negotiations:
Protesters complained that Republicans have steadfastly resisted taxing the wealthy while pushing for cuts in programs that help low-income Americans. They criticized Sen. John Barrasso as well as Lummis.
“We have to raise revenues,” said small business owner and Democrat Forest Irons. “Any economist worth their salt will say that.”
Protesters said they were frustrated with Lummis for what they described as her unwillingness to compromise with Democrats.
In eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, rallygoers and callers inundated local offices:
The group stood on the sidewalk soliciting honks of support for Medicare, Social Security, jobs and public education at noon today. Then they marched up the two flights of stairs at the Thames Plaza on Water Street and into Courtney's office.
Contois told the group she could not answer whether Courtney would sign the Progressive Caucus letter, but he did sign a letter with 32 other members of the Congressional Task Force on Seniors on July 15 urging Obama to reach a deal to avoid defaulting on U.S. loans while keeping a "commitment to the well being of older Americans."
In northern New Jersey, people lined up in front of Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen's Morristown office:
"Time for Washington to grow up and do its (expletive) work." That was a typical posting that appeared on a Twitter feed.
All over Capitol Hill, members of Congress reported that their websites were slowed or even knocked out by the flood of emotion.
More than 50 people of sharply-varying political stripes massed outside of Republican U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan's office in South Jersey.
In Franklin, Tennessee, people stood out in scorching summer temperatures to ask Repulbican Marsha Blackburn to stop holding the federal credit rating hostage:
About 40 members of the Morris Council for the Rebuilding of the American Dream, an affiliate of the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org, carried signs outside the Schuyler Place office reading “Rodney, Will You Stand Up for the Middle Class?” and “Frelinghuysen Don’t Default on Us.”
“We want the Republican Congress to vote to make a compromise,” said Truscha Quatrone of Montville.
Lastly, Van Jones appeared on MSNBC to talk about the rallies:
Many chanted "raise the debt ceiling," while others waved signs reading "Holding America Hostage" and "Save the American Dream".
Linda Lee is a 65-year-old teacher. She said she's afraid because she'll soon be eligible for Social Security, and she's uncertain how it would be affected if the debt ceiling isn't raised.
"My mother ... would not be able to make it if she didn't have hers (Social Security)," Lee said. "It's a scary time. I've got our country in my prayers."
The phone calls have already been pouring in, but even with today's success, we really need to keep the momentum rolling with phone calls to your representatives to make it clear that that Social Security and Medicare should not be sacrificed to save big tax cuts for the wealthy. The number for the US Capitol switchboard is (202) 224-3121 if you haven't called already. Ask what your representative's position is, and if they pledge to oppose cuts, thank them. If they want to force cuts in order to make a budget deal, or they're not sure, tell them very firmly (but politely) where you stand. On a normal day, even in tense times such as these, congressional district offices do not get a whole lot of visitors. They are generally located in quiet, out of the way places in strip malls, office parks, and small high-rise buildings. But today, thousands of Americans across the country said enough is enough. The people of this country are sick of their representatives in Washington playing games while millions still suffer without jobs. They're sick of politicians who will never have to worry about paying for retirement going after the American people's pension plan and retirement health insurance, Social Security and Medicare, while they give even more tax breaks to the superrich and forcing the American government to the brink of default to get their way.I knew today was going to be big when my friend Cara e-mailed to tell me that "my mother called last night to tell me that she is going at noon to the protest at Rep Tom Reed's office [in New York State]. My mother. She has never been to a protest and has never been plugged into the activist community." Of all the crises that have occurred in this country over the last few decades of her mother's life, the urgency of threatened cuts to some of the most vital supports for the middle class compelled her to show up today.Here's just a sample of what happened today, because I couldn't possibly cover 435 events in a single blog post:Ohioans protested against Rep. Steve Stivers' insistence on cutting vital programs like Medicaid before he would agree to keep the government out of default. They made their way in to talk to his office staff, and in a powerful moment, one woman shared her the story of her father, who in an emergency had to turn to Medicaid (which he qualified for) after his private insurance cut him off. Watch the video: In New York, over 50 protestors eventually met with the staff of Republican Nan Hayworth, but not before her office tried to shoo them away by calling the police. In California, 70 people showed up at Republican Brian Bilbray's office, eventually getting a meeting with his aides outside.Crowds gathered outside Washington Republican Dave Reichert's office, and his deputy district director listened silently as the crowd spelled out their concerns very clearly.In Pennsylvania, an estimated 80 people showed up at Republican Mike Fitzpatrick's office. They were so fired up about the turnout that they decided to meet up tonight to talk about what else they could do to make sure Social Security wouldn't be sacrificed to the whims of Tea Party Republicans. In New Hampshire, protests in front of Republican Charlie Bass' office spilled out next to a sidewalk cafe, where one Newt Gingrich was having his lunch. In Arizona, 40+ protestors braved 106 degree heat outside Republican David Schweikert's Scottsdale office to ask him to raise the debt ceiling with clean vote instead of targeting Social Security and Medicare. One of the younger attendees held up a sign with hope for their own future:And people coming out to defend Social Security didn't just target the offices of Republicans, or Democrats on the fence. In Missouri, they showed up at both local district offices to thank Emmanuel Cleaver and his staff for proudly signing the CPC letter defending against cuts. In New York, they showed up to thank Jerry Nadler. In Houston, TX, they visited with the staff of Sheila Jackson Lee. In Georgia, dozens showed up to ask Hank Johnson to be even more visible in demanding that the rich pay their fair share. And so on across the country.Watch out for more updates on what happened today, as well as how you can get involved in the coming days!