A group of unemployed protesters who staged a sit-in at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's, R-Ky., Capitol Hill office on Thursday were forced to vacate the office before meeting him, after they were told they would face arrest if they did not leave the area by closing time.
The sit-in was staged by OurDC, a non-profit organization dedicated to advocacy for the unemployed in the Washington, D.C. area. More than 20 unemployed protesters crowded into McConnell's office on Thursday morning, filling every chair and most of the floor space, with the intention of occupying the Kentucky senator's office until they had a face-to-face meeting. The protesters hoped to implore him to vote for President Obama's Rebuild America Act, which was scheduled for a Senate vote on Thursday afternoon.
Senate Republicans Again Block Jobs Bill
The job-creating $60 billion infrastructure bill -- originally a part of the Obama administration's American Jobs Act -- aims to rebuild the nation's crumbling infrastructure. It was blocked by the Senate GOP during Thursday's vote, after Republicans objected to a provision that would have implemented a 0.7 percent tax surcharge on gross income over $1 million to fund the projects.
James Adams, the communications director of OurDC, told the International Business Times that while the protesters waited in McConnell's office for more than eight hours, he never came to speak with them. Adams said his staff offered to set up a meeting with the senator's legislative director, but they refused.
It was another frustrating experience in a long line of frustrating experiences, Adams said. We wanted [McConnell] to look at some unemployed residents in the face, people who are starving, who have lost their self-esteem, and need jobs now.
Adams said McConnell's staff was polite to the protesters and did not attempt to kick them out during the day, adding that he assumes they contacted the senator about the sit-in. McConnell's staff reportedly told the group that a meeting with the senate's leading Republican must be booked weeks in advance.
McConnell's office did not return multiple requests for comment.
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Although the group had initially plan to camp out in McConnell's office until he faced them in person, Adams said by 6 p.m. on Thursday they were told that if they did not leave they would be arrested. After holding a vote, the protesters decided to leave.
When you're looking for a job and unemployed, the last thing you need is an arrest, Adams said.
While OurDC is not affiliated with the Occupy DC, unemployment is also a defining issue of the Occupy movement. Even though several Republicans say job creation is their ultimate priority, during an appearance on CNN's State of the Union McConnell himself said that, despite the nation's 9 percent unemployment rate, the federal government should not be bailing out the states to fund job creation.
However, Adams said that detail is unimportant to those grappling with unemployment.
They don't want charity, they don't want a handout. They just want a job.