HOUSTON, Texas (FinalCall.com) – A diverse crowd of hundreds convened outside city hall to express their displeasure with budget cuts proposed by Governor Rick Perry and the Texas GOP Legislature.
The “Texans Day of Outrage” rally was held on March 15.
Despite having an estimated $9.4 billion in its Economic Stabilization Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, the state of Texas is facing a $27 billion budget crisis. Gov. Perry is on the verge of cutting $10 billion in funding for schools and possibly laying off 100,000 school employees over the next several years. Gov. Perry has also come under scrutiny for refusing to accept $830 million from the federal Education Jobs fund that could be used for teacher assistance.
“We have worked closely with state leaders and lawmakers to balance the current budget, which includes using a one-time amount from the Economic Stabilization Fund to help our budget deal with the impact of the national recession,” Gov. Perry said in a statement.
Former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia believes it is going to take more than that to address the issues. “It’s a day of outrage today but quite frankly it’s a day of outrage until the (Legislative) session ends at the end of May. We have to hold Governor Perry accountable,” she told the crowd.
Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said, “The basic function of government is to provide human services. The children we serve in H.I.S.D.–if this budget goes through–will not receive a decent education.”
Ms. Fallon, who is also a former teacher, warned that if the state cuts just 2,000 teachers that would lead to some 60,000 students being “hacked into someone else’s classroom, trying to call it education but in effect what your teachers will be doing is crowd control,” she said.
To oppose the proposed education cutbacks, over 12,000 parents, educators and students also marched at the Capitol in Austin on March 12 during a gathering organized by Save Texas Schools, a non-partisan coalition.
Tea Party member gets violent
Local members of the Tea Party led a counter protest on March 15, several feet away from the main stage. The peaceful setting took an unforeseen violent turn when an elder White male Tea Partier rushed the stage and hit David Wortham of the Harris County AFL-CIO union in the face with a camera. Several rally volunteers took the attacker to the ground before police officers took him under arrest.
“We can have a peaceful demonstration and express your views but you do not have to get violent,” said Mr. Wortham. He told the crowd that he did not retaliate due in part to his attacker being a war veteran.
The brief skirmish did not detour speakers from continuing to address voting, healthcare, religion intolerance, the rights of workers, and proposed anti-immigration laws.
“I’m not only outraged today by what’s going on in Austin but I’m outraged at those of you here today who didn’t show up and vote. Staying mad one day is not going to work. If we can stay mad two years we can fix it. Don’t stay home on election 2012,” said Mr. Wortham.
“All of us have a vested interest in making sure that we have real, true healthcare in this country and in our state,” said Margaret Nosek, president of the Healthcare for All Texans group.
State Rep. Debbie Riddle has proposed an Arizona-style immigration bill in the House that has raised eyebrows across the country. If passed, the House Bill 2012 would make hiring an “unauthorized alien” a crime punishable by up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine. The only exemption would be if those hired are serving as maids, babysitters, landscapers and other positions related to household chores.
Human rights activist Maria Jimenez held no punches in addressing the bill. “They are butchering the immigrants of this state. You would think they would have settled this issue. It’s the worst type of discrimination and marginalization that we have heard since the days of slavery,” she said.
“SÃ, se puede!” chanted supportive workers. The phrase means “Yes, we can!”
Mustafaa Carroll, representing the local Council on American-Islamic Relations, addressed Islamophobia that is sweeping the nation. “The Christian Right has been pouring billions of dollars into governmental type stuff and yet has not been able to make this country totally Christian. But all of a sudden a few Muslims, with no money, coming from other places with no linguistic roots to the culture, are now going to turn this country to Sharia Law? So, when you think about it, it’s kind of absurd. We’re not for terrorism. We’re against all forms of terrorism,” said Mr. Carroll.
For over a month, members of the National Black United Front have marched outside city hall every Tuesday since the taped beating of Chad Holley by police officers was released to the public on Feb. 2. The group is still calling for the establishment of an independentcivilian review boardswithsubpoena power, proper funding and prosecutorial power.
“We stand in solidarity with you and we need you to stand in solidarity with us to fight against police brutality,” said NBUF National Chairman Kofi Taharka.