It was a beautiful day for a protest march -- blue skies, balmy temperatures, shining sun -- and the dozens of Maryland state employees rallying against state budget cuts tried to make the most of it.
They held their banners high and chanted loudly as they snaked their way through the Howard Street shopping district en route to the new sports stadium.
"Schaefer says cutbacks. We say fight back," a chorus of voices sang out.
"Make People Needs THE Priority" read the banners.
They pressed fliers into the hands of folks waiting at bus stops and urged shoppers along Lexington Mall to sign petitions urging state tax reform. And they got some people's attention.
"If you don't feel it right now, you're gonna feel it," said Andre Rose of the effects of state budget cuts that have resulted in layoffs, library closures, and reduced payments for social service recipients across Maryland.
"They're fighting back," added Mr. Rose's 9-year-old daughter Jennifer, as she stood with her dad in front of a clothing store on the mall.
The protest march was organized by Council 92 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the ** Coalition to Overturn the Budget Cuts. It was part of their effort to lobby for state tax reform to alleviate Maryland's budget crisis.
About 75 protesters met in a small park across the street from the headquarters of the state social services agency for a rally before marching toward the site of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The new stadium "is a symbol of where [state] priorities should be -- human needs, employee needs," said Bill Bolander, executive director of AFSCME's Council 92. "Those kinds of things should take top priority in this state."
With additional state budget cuts anticipated by early January, Mr. Bolander said the state employees union is trying to rally citizens behind the idea that state tax reform is the answer to Maryland's fiscal plight and get state legislators to respond.
"There's plenty of money out there to deal with the deficit," said Mr. Bolander, who, along with eight others, were arrested last week for staging a sit-in at the Baltimore office of Governor William Donald Schaefer.
He said they could get it by "taxing the rich and the corporations who are getting a free ride."
The union's message certainly appealed to David Mae Redfer.
HTC "I have so many relatives that work for the state and the city," said Ms. Redfer. "My concern is for their jobs. They build that big stadium to hit a ball across a field, and people are starving in the street."
Ms. Redfer, 48, of Northwest Baltimore, had been on her way home yesterday when she saw the protest rally at the corner of Eutaw and Saratoga streets. She stayed for the march.
Ms. Redfer arrived at the stadium about 2 p.m. along with the other marchers, who were escorted there by police motorcyclists.
She was asked, was it worth it?
"All of it is worth it," she said. "Maybe Schaefer will get the message."