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Black Farmers, Employees Protest Outside USDA Building

WI Web Staff Report | 10/4/2011, 6:25 p.m.
A Man with a Purpose. Lawrence Lucas, president of the U. S. Department of Agriculture Coalition of Minority Workers, walks past protest signs as he prepares to talk a small crowd gathered about black farmers and minority workers issues in front of the USDA Building in Southwest on Tues. Oct. 4./Photo by Khalid Naji-Allah

Present and former U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) employees and minority farmers gathered on Tuesday (Oct. 4) for a non-stop demonstration in front of the agency's Washington, D.C. office.

The protest served as kick-off day for the "Filibuster for Justice" event which was held to address the lack of accountability at USDA.

"The primary purpose of this event is to continue to bring attention to the American public, the Obama White House, the Congress, and the leadership team of Secretary Tom Vilsack at the Department of Agriculture of the unceasing sexism, racism, reprisal, intimidation, sexual assaults, and other civil and human rights violations that must end for thousands of USDA employees and minority farmers," Lawrence Lucas, president of the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees, said in a statement issued prior to the protest.

According to a 2008 Government Accountability Office study, the USDA "has been addressing allegations of discrimination for decades and receiving recommendations for improving its civil rights functions without achieving fundamental improvements," the statement further read. In addition, according to some present and former USDA employees, Joe Leonard Jr., USDA's assistant secretary for civil rights, has contributed to the inefficiency of USDA's complaint processing," it continued.

"Undisputedly, internal discrimination within USDA continues to negatively impact our communities," said Tanya Ward Jordan, founder of the volunteer organization comprised of former and present employees, who have been injured or ill-treated due to workplace discrimination and/or reprisal, according to the statement.