Demonstrators Come Out For and Against Indy Democrats in Urbana
Many Indiana House Democrats who came to Illinois to deny a quorum to the House Republican majority chose Urbana as their resting spot.
On Thursday morning, it was easy to spot the hotel where they were staying. The Comfort Suites on North Lincoln Avenue had several TV news trucks in its parking lots, and people carrying signs standing along the sidewalk. Two groups of demonstrators hailed passing motorists outside the hotel, letting everybody know they welcomed the lawmakers --- or thought they should go home.
University of Illinois student Devin Mapes was among about 20 demonstrators lined up to support the Indiana House Democrats. Mapes, who is president of the U of I Illini Democrats, said Indiana Democrats are right to use a boycott to block the majority Republicans from passing bills he says would hurt unions and teachers.
"These individuals here in the hotel are trying to push democracy forward as opposed to unilaterally forcing things down the throats of the individuals in the state of Indiana," Mapes said.
Champaign County Democratic Chairman Al Klein was among the demonstrators supporting the lawmakers. He charged Republicans with trying to promote a hidden agenda.
"No one ran on this as a platform," Klein said. "They ran on austerity, shared sacrifice, solving budget problems. And then suddenly, they arrive in their state capitols, they take off their jackets, and --- what is it? --- 'We're going to bust the unions, we're going to bust the state employees'. Where did that come from?"
But the view was different a few yards away, for Frank Barham, chair of the Champaign Tea Party, which organized about a dozen demonstrators who thought the Indiana Democrats should go back to Indianapolis. In Barham's view, Republicans won the majority in the Indiana House, and Democrats need to accept that.
"These people didn't win," Barham said, whose advice for the lawmakers staying at the Comfort Suites was, "Go back to do what you were elected to do, what you're getting paid to do. You're not getting paid to hide out in Urbana.
Another demonstrator, Urbana resident Robert Dunne agreed. He said Indiana House Democrats need to go back home and make the tough choices needed to keep their state fiscally sound.
"They were elected to be in the state of Indiana --- not hiding out in Urbana, Illinois," Dunne said.
Barham said they held their demonstration at the request of the Tea Party group in Fort Wayne Indiana --- Fort Wayne lawmaker Win Foster was among the Indiana House Democrats staying at the Comfort Suites. Barham said he hadn't seen any of the Indiana Democrats during the demonstration --- although some on his picket line voiced suspicions about a stretch limo that pulled out of the hotel parking lot.
(Photo by Jim Meadows/WILL)