It was evident from their downcast eyes.
Outrage mixed with panic for several thousand federal workers who marched Thursday to the White House in an appeal to President Trump to end a federal shutdown nearing its fourth week.
The demonstrators converged on the AFL-CIO’s northwest D.C. headquarters at noon for the “Stop the Shutdown” rally, as labor union leaders and Democratic lawmakers called for the president to end the political impasse over border wall funding and return about 800,000 people to their jobs.
“I don’t know how I am going to pay my bills,” Mohasi Mohammed, a security guard at the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum, said while holding a sign reading, “Trump, pay my bills or give us our jobs back.”
“Mr. Trump, you want to tell me to be homeless,” Mohammed said. “It makes no sense. I am not going to be homeless, I need my job.”
Busloads of participants from Detroit, Philadelphia and communities along the East Coast filled the intersection of 16th and K streets, as demonstrators with protest signs rallied at the AFL-CIO headquarters before marching to the White House.
While D.C. is a frequent location for mass demonstrations, many of the federal workers on hand clearly were not used to engaging in protest or talking to the media. But their message was unmistakable.
“I want my check. I need my check. I need to get back to work,” said Alison Munger, who works for the U.S. Department of Housing and Community Development in Philadelphia. “If I don’t get my check, my mortgage [company] is going to be calling me, asking, ‘Where is our money?’ … My car people will be calling, … my insurance company will be calling and I have two kids in college.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) were among the numerous speakers at the rally, held hours after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) debated a bill to end the shutdown that went nowhere.
“I have never seen a president like this, who holds temper tantrums and holds 800,000 people hostage,” J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, told The Informer after addressing the crowd.
Cox said McConnell is simply doing Trump’s bidding.
“We need a simple up-and-down vote and then send the bill to the president,” he said.
Wala Blegay, the lawyer for two D.C.-area nurses’ unions, said she came to Lafayette Square to show solidarity, while Horacio Fenton, 59, a longtime IRS employee from Philadelphia, said he traveled to D.C. because he is fed up with the bureaucratic bickering at workers’ expense.
“I have been through seven shutdowns and I’m tired,” he said.