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Activists Call for Funding, Not Cuts

by Nick Fuller, MCHC

BOSTON, July 24 – As the downpour ended and the umbrellas were put away, a group of 18 community leaders and activists returned to the State House, the scene of their arrests nearly one month ago. Also known as the “State House 18”, the group was involved in the June 30th press conference and “fair budget” rally. After attempting to deliver a set of fair budget requests to legislators, the 18 activists refused to leave and were subsequently arrested on counts of trespassing and disturbing the peace.

This time they were back to let Beacon Hill know that although the legislators will soon be enjoying a long summer recess, the harmful effects of their sweeping budget cuts are not going anywhere. And neither are the voices of the people which, on this rainy Wednesday morning, continue to call for a system of fair taxation and raised revenue rather than budget cuts for public services.

City Councilor Chuck Turner, a member of the State House 18, began the short rally by asking the crowd, “Who needs to raise the revenue?” “Our legislators!” responded the group of onlookers.

“Well, if they’re not going to raise it,” continued the Councilor, “we’re going to give them an example of how revenue can be raised so that they can follow the people. Let’s raise the revenue!” At this point two other members of the State House 18 unfurled an enormous 50 foot vertical banner suspended in the air by large helium balloons, which simply read “REVENUE”.

The REVENUE banner begins to rise at the State House.
With the “revenue” banner raised in front of the golden dome of the State House, members of the State House 18 were invited to speak to the crowd of citizens and reporters. Michael Gainer, a member of the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities, explained that “it’s unfortunate we need to go to these extremes to get our message across, but this is what it takes. It’s going to take communication and persistent struggling. We need to maintain our efforts and that’s why we made the sacrifice on June 30th.” Gainer went on to advocate for a fair budget by raising revenue through the taxation of intangible properties such as stocks and bonds, noting that unlike so-called “tangible property”, intangible property is disproportionately owned by the wealthy.

Andrea Hornbien talked of her experience meeting with 6 women in jail after her arrest on June 30th. The women were all incarcerated for drug-related offences, but had little hope of getting into a rehab or detox program because the two public services had been so severely setback by the budget cuts. “We have to restore funding,” proclaimed Hornbien. “Our legislators have turned their backs on the people. We have to get them back representing us or else vote them out.”

“I encourage our legislature to show some leadership, to stand up and say we need to raise the revenue to maintain the quality of life here in Massachusetts,” said Bruce Blaisdell, the executive director of the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry. “In the 23 years that our shelters have been open we estimate we have touched the lives of over 1,000 women and children. It is people like these, vulnerable women and children, who are going to be hurt by these budget cuts.”

Councilor Chuck Turner at the rally.
Chuck Turner took to the stage again for some closing remarks. “We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our children, and we owe it to future generations to create a fair taxation system. Our work continues and continues on pressuring the legislature, but we have to get out into our neighborhoods, into our communities, and help the people of this state understand what needs to be done in order to make sure the revenues of this state are shared fairly with all.”

With the 50 foot “revenue” banner and a small entourage of onlookers and photographers trailing behind, the State House 18 marched in the streets from the State House to the Post Office Square courthouse for their early morning, pre-trial arraignment. The group was told to return on September 22 for another pre-trail conference where, if charges are not dropped, a trial date will be set.

The State House 18 marches on to the court house.


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