Four men stood in front of City Hall with signs calling for redirecting military spending to meet human needs at home. Why weren’t more people joining them?
“What do you think this is—Cairo?” joked Henry Lowendorf (pictured), chair of the Greater New Haven Peace Council, which had called the demo Friday afternoon.
Not Cairo—and not Madison, Wisconsin, either, where tens of thousands of union members and their supporters have gathered at the state capitol over the past several days to oppose the new Republican governor’s efforts to strip public employee unions of collective bargaining rights.
But that didn’t mean the small, quiet protest in New Haven Friday didn’t garner local support. Its message: If the country didn’t spend so much money fighting wars abroad, it would have more to spend at home—and avoid the kind of police and school cutbacks facing cities like New Haven.
New Havener Deborah Taylor (pictured) was passing City Hall with her toddler, Hunter, in tow. She said she “absolutely agrees” with the sentiments on the signs the protesters were holding. “More money is going to war and less to public education,” she said.
Taylor said she worries about the quality of education that will be available to “my little guy” in a few years. Plus, her husband is a teacher.
She said a second concern is the environment; the House Republican leadership in Congress is trying to gut the Environmental Protection Agency, which is in charge of ensuring clean air and clean water. “We need to go to clean energy, and I don’t mean ‘clean’ oil or ‘clean’ coal,” Taylor said. “If you don’t have your environment, you have nothing.”
Lowendorf engaged her in conversation about the extension of tax cuts for the wealthy that President Obama signed off on in December, and the freeze on federal government workers’ salaries that Lowendorf argued amounts to a tax increase for middle-class workers. She nodded in agreement.
The protesters point out that Mayor John DeStefano is calling for belt-tightening among city workers to bridge a $5.5 million gap in the current year’s budget and a projected $22 million gap in the next fiscal year’s. Meanwhile, according to the National Priorities Project, New Haven taxpayers will pay $84 million for FY2011 in total Iraq and Afghanistan war spending—or $1,766 per household— which is “more than enough to cover the projected budget deficit,” Lowendorf said.
His group is calling for an end to the wars, bringing the troops home and funding local needs.
Maureen Fisher (pictured) lives in West Haven and works at a bank near City Hall. On her way home Friday, she stopped to say that instead of spending billions on “unnecessary” wars, “We should be spending more money on our children and families. When I walk here in the mornings, I see people who have nowhere to go. We need to build shelters for them. And also we need to not lay off the police officers. We need them,” Fisher said.
Right on cue, a New Haven cop pulled up in his cruiser to take care of an errand inside City Hall. That was the only information he’d share with a reporter. He declined to make any comment on the protest.