Hundreds of Maryland state troopers and their families marched in neat formation to the State House in Annapolis this morning to protest the governor's plan to fire more than 100 of their co-workers.
Uniformed officers carried banners reading "Save Your Troopers." They formed a sea of khaki as they walked down Rowe Boulevard, forcing that main route into Annapolis to close temporarily.
As they passed state government offices along the way, office workers leaned out windows and shouted their support.
"We need you guys and gals," one middle-aged woman hollered to the troopers, who wore black bands on their badges to symbolize their anger.
Other state workers took leave time to stand along the route of the march. "All this stuff is purely an emotional tactic," said Paul Talbert, who works at the state comptroller's office. "He is trying to blackmail the taxpayers into a tax increase."
The "he" in this case is Gov. William Donald Schaefer. Schaefer proposed a $450 million budget-balancing plan this week that critics have called draconian. The plan calls for abolishing the jobs of 83 troopers and 25 civilian employees, as well as cuts in other state agencies and programs.
After the state Board of Public Works approved the cuts this morning, Pat Drum, head of the Maryland Troopers Association, urged members to continue lobbying legislators for help. "Let's flood the mail system," Drum said. "The next two days are crucial."
With some in tears after the bad news, the troopers dispersed. "Stay on the sidewalks," Drum admonished them. "We're professionals."