Nine arrested during sit-in to protest budget cuts Protesters demanded to meet Schaefer

November 20, 1991|By John Rivera

Nine people, most of them state employees, were arrested last night outside Gov. William Donald Schaefer's Baltimore office in the State Office Building on Preston Street, where they had camped all day and refused orders to leave when the building was closed at 5:30 p.m.

The group, protesting budget cuts, told state troopers they would not leave the building until Governor Schaefer promised to meet with them to discuss their alternative plan to the announced budget cuts.

Most were representatives of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. They said they were demanding a meeting with the governor so that they could present what they consider a proposal of a more equitable taxation system, entitled "Reforming Maryland's Taxes."

Arrested were William Bolander, executive director of AFSCME Council 92, and AFSCME members Pat Bevan, Jeff Bigelow, Ron Dyson, Lynn Josephs, Marilyn McGhee and Pete Moralis. Sharon Ceci of the Coalition to Overturn the Budget Cuts and Billy Workman of Act-Up Baltimore were also arrested.

They began their sit-in in the hallway outside the governor's officeon the 11th floor of the building at 301 W. Preston St. at noon while hundreds of others marched in front of the building.

In addition to a meeting with the governor -- who was not present inthe building yesterday -- they said they were demanding a public hearing on the budget cuts and an emergency session of the legislature to discuss raising taxes.

But they said their insistence on a definite time and place for a meeting with Mr. Schaefer was non-negotiable. Governor Schaefer's press secretary, Frank Traynor, met with the protesters shortly before the 5:30 p.m. deadline for their arrest and told them he would call the governor today and get back to them.

"You've gotten this far, you have my assurance that he's a caring governor, who wants to hear," Mr. Traynor told them. "If you've danced this far with me, just finish the waltz. . . . Hold off one day, that's all I'm saying."

But the protesters, who had been sitting on the carpeted floor of the hall, said they would not leave. They said their responsibility to the union's membership required them to remain until they received a definite commitment from the governor for a meeting.

"Mr. Traynor, if we were business people from Japan, boom! We'd have a meeting," said Mr. Dyson, an AFSCME official.

Finally, shortly before 6 p.m., Mr.Traynor gave up.

"Thank you for listening to me, and what you choose to do from this point is on your backs," the governor's aide said.

At that point, the protesters, anticipating arrest, started chanting "Schaefer says cut back, we say fight back" and awaited the state troopers. But nothing happened. The state troopers and members of the governor's staff watched from behind the glass doors of the office lobby but made no move to remove the protesters.

Thinking that they might be in for the long haul, the protesters broke out playing cards and began munching on the apples, bananas and chocolate chip cookies they brought with them. Crowded in the stuffy hallway with about 16 members of the news media, they settled in, preparing to stay the night.

But at 7:05 p.m. the troopers came out of the office, made a final announcement that the building was closed and began taking the protesters into custody.

"It would seem to me that the governor should have had a little more sympathy," said Bill Hudson, president of the AFSCME state council, as he watched the protesters being loaded into the vehicles. "That's just poor leadership."

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