By: Josh Grossberg
Even though a last-minute deal staved off a federal government shutdown the night before, thousands of people came to a park near Inglewood on Saturday to warn their elected officials not to cut spending to programs they hold dear.
Led by South Bay Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, the crowd at Jesse Owens Park chanted slogans, waved signs and shouted their approval for maintaining programs that focus on public housing, after-school programs, affordable health and jobs programs.
Waters said that her fellow members of Congress needed to be made aware that people in her district, which includes Lawndale, Hawthorne and Gardena, are not going to sit idly by while their cherished programs are cut.
"We are not going to take cuts lying down," she said. "Our community has been very quiet. We are not recognizing the danger we are in."
Buses brought in members of several unions from other parts of town. Others came by car and some walked to the park on a brisk spring day. Participants in the rally also included churches, health clinics, neighborhood councils and community activists.
They held signs like "We need a budget not a bulldozer," "Save Head Start" and "Save Education for a Better Future."
"I don't want them to cut the budget," said Raymond Aguilar with the Coalition of Mental Health Professionals. "I don't know why they are taking from people who have the least."
His colleague, Gregory Edison, said working people would suffer if government programs were cut.
"Our community needs resources," he said. "Without them, we would not survive."
The federal government averted a shutdown on Friday, but not before Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill agreed to a series of budgetary cuts totaling nearly $40 billion. That's too much, Waters said. She promised to keep her constituents up to date on what happens.
"The devil is in the details," she said. "I'm going to tell you what the details are."
She also promised to fight to keep last year's health care reform intact.
"We cannot lose the health care reform we worked so hard for," she said. "We're still reeling from recession and unemployment. We need jobs and infrastructure."
State Assemblyman and former Gardena Councilman Steve Bradford took a swipe at Republicans and said that "people of color" need to be protected.
"We cannot kick people when they're down," he said. "That's what our Republican colleagues want to do.
The messages were eagerly embraced by the audience.
"Times are tough," said David Shaw of Los Angeles. "People think we're lazy, but in today's world, you can't get things done by yourself. You need help sometimes."